Skip to main content

Full text of "History of the conquest of Mexico"

See other formats



Please keep this card In 
book pocket 

en r) 

«n S 
a* <3 

art S 


en a 

en S 

I 3 

an 3 











v. 2 

a 00001 14807 4 

This book is due at the LOUIS R. WILSON LIBRARY on the 
last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold it may be 
renewed by bringing it to the library. 





^ffi/i M i »- 

- — 

r i vitfi A-SE •' 

J . i 

■■ - 

kti 1 1 "91 






Volume V. 

®mo ^unfrrcfc ant> lifti) Copies flrtittelr. 

iVb l.b.A. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

© "M T 

^ mr m ^ 9 ss 9 







" Victrices aquilas alium laturus in orbem.'' 

Lucan, Pharsalia, lib. v., v. 238. 


I? '73 

v . A 

VOLUME II. H" ' S 7 



Copyright, 1843, 

Copyright, 1871, 

Copyright, 1873, 

Mexico — Vol. II. 

Lippincott' s Press, Philadelphia. 





City of Cholula.— Great Temple. — March to Cholula. 
— Reception of the Spaniards. — Conspiracy De- 
tected 3 

City of Cholula 3 

Its History 4 

Religious Traditions 5 

Its ancient Pyramid 6 

Temple of Quetzalcoatl 7 

Holy City 8 

Magnificent Scenery 9 

Spaniards leave Tlascala 10 

Indian Volunteers 10 

Army enters Cholula 12 

Brilliant Reception 12 

Envoys from Montezuma 14 

Suspicions of Conspiracy 14 

Fidelity of Marina 15 

Alarming Situation of Cortes 16 

Intrigues with the Priests 17 

Interview with the Caciques 18 

Night-watch of the Spaniards 20 

a* v 




Terrible Massacre. — Tranquillity Restored. — Re- 
flections on the Massacre. — Further Proceedings. 
— Envoys from Montezuma ...... 21 

Preparations for a secret Assault . .21 

Natives collect in the Square ....... 21 

The Signal given ......... 22 

Terrible Massacre 23 

Onset of the Tlascalans .24 

Defence of the Pyramid 24 

Division of the Spoil ........ 25 

Restoration of Order . 26 

Reflections on the Massacre .28 

Right of Conquest . 29 

Missionary Spirit 30 

Policy of Cortes ......... 32 

His perilous Situation .32 

Cruelty to be charged on him ....... 33 

Terror of " the White Gods" ...... 35 

The Cross raised in Cholula . 36 

Victims liberated from the Cages ...... 36 

Christian Temple reared on the Pyramid . . . . - 37 

Embassy from Montezuma • • 37 

Departure of the Cempoallans -39 


March resumed. — Ascent of the Great Volcano. — Val 
ley of Mexico. — Impression on the Spaniards.— 
Conduct of Montezuma. — They descend into the 

Valley 40 

Spaniards leave Cholula 40 

Signs of Treachery 41 

The Army reaches the Mountains ..... 42 

Wild Traditions 42 

The great Volcano 43 


Spaniards ascend its Sides 
Perils of the Enterprise 

Subsequent Ascent 

Descent into the Crater 
The Troops suffer from the Tempest 
First View of the Valley- 
Its Magnificence and Beauty 
Impression on the Spaniards 
Disaffection of the Natives to Montezuma 
Embassy from the Emperor . 
His gloomy Apprehensions 
Silence of the Oracles . 
Spaniards advance 
Death of the Spies 
Arrival of the Tezcucan Lord . 
Floating Gardens . 
Crowds assembled on the Roads 
Army reaches Iztapalapan 
Its celebrated Gardens 
Striking View of Mexico 



4 3 
4 3 


Environs of Mexico. — Interview with Montezuma. — 
Entrance into the Capital.— Hospitable Recep- 
tion. — Visit to the Emperor 65 

Preparations to enter the Capital ...... 65 

Army enters on the great Causeway ...... 66 

Beautiful Environs 67 

Brilliant Procession of Chiefs ....... 68 

Splendid Retinue of Montezuma ...... 69 

Dress of the Emperor .71 

His Person .71 

His Reception of Cortes ........ 72 

Spaniards enter the Capital 73 

Feelings of the Aztecs 75 

Hospitable Reception 76 

The Spanish Quarters jy 

Precaution of the General 78 



Visited by the Emperor ........ 79 

His rich Presents 80 

Superstitious Terrors 8l 

Royal Palace . 82 

Description of its Interior 83 

Cortes visits Montezuma 83 

Attempts to convert the Monarch 84 

Entire Failure 85 

His religious Views ......... 86 

Montezuma's Eloquence 87 

His courteous Bearing .88 

Reflections of Cortes 89 

Notice of Hen-era 91 

Criticism on his History 91 

Life of Toribio 93 

Peter Martyr 96 

HLs Works 





Tezcucan Lake. — Description of the Capital. — Palaces 
and Museums. — Royal Household. — Montezuma's 

Way of Life 101 

Lake of Tezcuco ........ 101 

Its Diminution 102 

Floating Islands 103 

The ancient Dikes 104 

Houses of ancient Mexico ....... 105 

Its Streets 106 

Its Population 108 

Its Aqueducts and Fountains . . . . . . .111 

The imperial Palace ........ 112 



Adjoining Edifices 113 

Magnificent Aviary 113 

Extensive Menagerie 114 

Collection of Dwarfs 116 

Beautiful Gardens .116 

Royal Hill of Chapoltepec 117 

Wives of Montezuma 1 18 

His Meals 120 

Luxurious Dessert . . . . . . . . .121 

Custom of Smoking 123 

Ceremonies at Court . 124 

Economy of the Palace 125 

Oriental Civilization . 126, 

Reserve of Montezuma 127 

Symptoms of Decline of Power .127 


Market of Mexico. — Great Temple. — Interior Sanc- 
tuaries. — Spanish Quarters 128 

Mexican Costume 128 

Great Market of Mexico 130 

Quarter of the Goldsmiths 131 

Booths of the Armorers 132 

Provisions for the Capital 133 

Throngs in the Market 135 

Aztec Money 135 

The great Temple 137 

Its Structure 138 

Dimensions ......... 139 

Instruments of Worship 140 

Grand View from the Temple 141 

Shrines of the Idols 143 

Imprudence of Cortes 145 

Interior Sanctuaries ........ 146 

Mound of Skulls 147 

Aztec Seminaries . 148 

Impression on the Spaniards 150 

Hidden Treasures . . . . . . . . .150 

Mass performed in Mexico 151 




Anxiety of Cortes. — Seizure of Montezuma. — His 
Treatment by the Spaniards. — Execution ok his 

Officers. — Montezuma in Irons. — Reflections . 152 

Anxiety of Cortes 152 

Council of War ......... 153 

Opinions of the Officers ....... 153 

Bold Project of Cortes ........ 154 

Plausible Pretext . 155 

Interview with Montezuma . 158 

Accusation of the Emperor ...... 159 

His Seizure by the Spaniards ....... 161 

He is carried to their Quarters ...... 162 

Tumult among the Aztecs ....... 162 

Montezuma's Treatment ....... 163 

Vigilant Patrol 164 

Trial of the Aztec Chiefs ....... 166 

Montezuma in Irons 167 

Chiefs burnt at the Stake 168 

Emperor allowed to return 168 

Declines this Permission ....... 169 

Reflections on these Proceedings 170 

Views of the Conquerors ....... 171 


Montezuma's Deportment. — His Life in the Spanish 
Quarters. — Meditated Insurrection. — Lord of 
Tezcuco seized. — Further Measures of Cortes . 174 
Troubles at Vera Cruz ....... 174 

Vessels built on the Lake ....... 175 

Montezuma's Life in the Spanish Quarters .... 175 

His Munificence ......... 176 

Sensitive to Insult 177 

The Emperor's Favorites ....... 178 

Spaniards attempt his Conversion ..... 179 



Brigan tines on the Lake 18c 

The Royal Chase 181 

Lord of Tezcuco 181 

Meditated Insurrection 183 

Policy of Cortes 184 

Tezcucan Lord in Chains . . . . . . . 186 

Further Measures of Cortes .187 

Surveys the Coast 18S 


Montezuma swears Allegiance to Spain. — Royal Trea- 
sures.— Their Division.— Christian Worship in the 

Teocalli. — Discontents of the Aztecs . . . 190 

Montezuma convenes his Nobles 190 

Swears Allegiance to Spain 191 

His Distress 191 

Its Effect on the Spaniards 192 

Imperial Treasures 193 

Splendid Ornaments 194 

The Royal Fifth 196 

Amount of the Treasure 196 

Division of Spoil 198 

Murmurs of the Soldiery 19S 

Cortes calms the Storm . 199 

Progress in Conversion 201 

Cortes demands the Teocalli 202 

Christian Worship in the Sanctuary 203 

National Attachment to Religion 204 

Discontents of the Aztecs 205 

Montezuma's Warning 206 

Reply of Cortes 207 

Insecurity in the Castilian Quarters 208 




Fate of Cortes' Emissaries. — Proceedings in the Cas- 
tilian Court. — Preparations of Velasquez.— Nar- 
vaez lands in mexico. — politic conduct of cortes. 

—he leaves the capital 210 

Cortes' Emissaries arrive in Spain ..... 210 

Their Fate 211 

Proceedings at Court ........ 212 

The Bishop of Burgos 213 

Emperor postpones his Decision ...... 214 

Velasquez meditates Revenge 215 

Sends Narvaez against Cortes 216 

The Audience interferes 217 

Narvaez sails for Mexico 218 

He anchors off San Juan de Ulua ...... 219 

Vaunts of Narvaez 220 

Sandoval prepares for Defence ...... 221 

His Treatment of the Invaders 222 

Cortes hears of Narvaez 223 

He bribes his Emissaries ....... 224 

Sends an Envoy to his Camp 225 

The Friar's Intrigues ........ 227 

Embarrassment of Cortes ....... 228 

He prepares for Departure 229 

He leaves the Capital ........ 231 


Cortes descends from the Table-land. — Negotiates 
with Narvaez. — Prepares to assault him. — Quar- 
ters of Narvaez. — Attack by Night. — Narvaez 

defeated 233 

Cortes crosses the Valley ....... 233 

Reinforced at Cholula 233 

Falls in with his Envoy 234 

Unites with Sandoval 236 




He reviews his Troops 237 







Embassy from Narvaez 

His Letter to the General 

Cortes' Tenure of Authority 

Negotiates with Narvaez . 

Spaniards resume their March 

Prepare for the Assault . 

Cortes harangues the Soldiers 

Their Enthusiasm in his Cause 

He divides his Forces . 

Quarters of Narvaez at Cempoalla . 

Cortes crosses the Rio de Canoas 

Surprises Narvaez by Night 

Tumult in his Camp 

Narvaez wounded and taken . 

The Sanctuary in Flames 

The Garrisons surrender . 

Cortes gives Audience to his Captives 

Reflections on the Enterprise 254 


Discontent of the Troops. — Insurrection in the Capi- 
tal. — Return of Cortes. — General Signs of Hos- 
tility. — Massacre by Alvarado. — Rising of the 

Aztecs 259 

Discontent of the Troops of Narvaez ..... 259 

Policy of Cortes 260 

He displeases his Veterans ....... 261 

He divides his Forces . . . . . . . 262 

News of an Insurrection in the Capital ..... 262 

Cortes prepares to return ....... 264 

Arrives at Tlascala ......... 264 

Beautiful Landscape 266 

Disposition of the Natives ....... 267 

News from the Spaniards in Mexico ..... c68 

Cortes marches to the Capital ....... 268 

Signs of Alienation in the Aztecs ..... 268 

Vol. II. b 



Spaniards re-enter the Capital ....... 269 

Cause of the Insurrection ....... 270 

Massacre by Alvarado ........ 271 

His Apology for the Deed ....... 273 

His probable Motives ........ 275 

Rising of the Aztecs ........ 276 

Assault the Garrison ........ 277 

Cortes reprimands his Officer ...... 279 

His Coldness to Montezuma 280 

Cortes releases Montezuma's Brother ..... 281 

He heads the Aztecs ........ 281 

The City in Arms ........ 282 

Notice of Oviedo 282 

His Life and Writings ....... 284 

Camargo's History 286 




Desperate Assault on the Quarters. — Fury of the 
Mexicans. — Sally of the Spaniards. — Montezuma 

addresses the people. — dangerously wounded 29i 

Quarters of the Spaniards 291 

Desperate Assault of the Aztecs 292 

Cannonade of the Besieged ....... 293 

Indians fire the Outworks ....... 295 

Fury of the Mexicans ........ 297 

Appearance of their Forces 298 

Sally of the Spaniards 299 

Aztecs shower Missiles from the Azoteas .... 300 

Their Dwellings in Flames .....,, 301 

Spaniards sound the Retreat ...... 302 



Gallantry of Cortes 302 

Resolute Bearing of the Aztecs ..... 303 

Cortes requests Montezuma to interpose .... 305 

He ascends the Turret ....... 306 

Addresses his Subjects ........ 307 

Is dangerously wounded ....... 308 

His Grief and Humiliation ....... 30S 


Storming of the Great Temple. — Spirit of the Aztecs. 
— Distresses of the Garrison. — Sharp Combats in 
the City. — Death of Montezuma .... 

The Aztecs hold the Great Temple 

It is stormed by the Spaniards 

Spirited Resistance . 

Bloody Combat on the Area 

Heroism of Cortes . 

Spaniards victorious 

Conflagration of the Temple 

Cortes invites a Parley 

He addresses the Aztecs . 

Spirit of the Aztecs 

The Spaniards dismayed . 

Distresses of the Garrison . 

Military Machine of Cortes 

Impeded by the Canals 

Sharp Combats in the City 

Bold Bearing of Cortes 

Apparition of St. James . 

Attempt to convert Montezuma 

Its Failure 

Last Hours of Montezuma 

His Character . 

His Posterity .... 

Effect of his Death on the Spaniards 

Interment of Montezuma , 




3 2 4 





Council of War. — Spaniards evacuate the City. — 
Noche Triste, or the " Melancholy Night." — Ter- 
rible Slaughter. — Halt for the Night.— Amount 

of Losses 343 

Council of War ......... 343 

Predictions of the Astrologer ....... 344 

Their Effect on Cortes ....... 345 

He decides to abandon the Capital ...... 345 

Arranges his Order of March ...... 347 

Spaniards leave the City ........ 348 

Noche Triste, or the " Melancholy Night " . . . . 349 

The Capital is roused ........ 350 

Spaniards assailed on the Causeway ..... 350 

The Bridge wedged in the Stones ...... 351 

Despair of the Spaniards ....... 351 

Fearful Carnage ......... 352 

Wreck of Bodies and Treasure ...... 353 

Spaniards arrive at the Third Breach ..... 354 

The Cavaliers return to the Rescue ..... 355 

Condition of the Rear ........ 355 

Alvarado's Leap ......... 356 

Sad Spectacle of the Survivors ...... 359 

Feelings of Cortes ........ 359 

Spaniards defile through Tacuba ...... 360 

Storm the Temple ........ 361 

Halt for the Night 362 

Reflections of the General ....... 362 

The Loss of the Spaniards ....... 363 


Retreat of the Spaniards. — Distresses of the Army. 
— Pyramids of Teotihuacan. — Great Battle of 

Otumba 368 

Quiet of the Mexicans ........ 368 

The Spaniards resume their Retreat ..... 369 

Distresses of the Army ........ 371 



Their heroic Fortitude ...... 373 

Pyramids of Teotihuacan 374 

Account of them 374 

Their probable Destination 376 

The Micoatl, or Path of the Dead 378 

The Races who reared them ....... 378 

Indian Host in the Valley of Otumba .... 379 

Sensations of the Spaniards 380 

Instructions of Cortes . . . . . . . . 381 

He leads the Attack 382 

Great Battle of Otumba 383 

Gallantry of the Spaniards 383 

Their Forces in Disorder 384 

Desperate Effort of Cortes 385 

The Aztec Chief is slain . 386 

The Barbarians put to Flight ..... . . 386 

Rich Spoil for the Victors 387 

Reflections on the Battle 388 


Arrival in Tlascala. — Friendly Reception. — Discon- 
tents of the Army. — Jealousy of the Tlascalans. 
— Embassy from Mexico 

Spaniards arrive at Tlascala 
Friendly Reception 
Feelings of the Tlascalans 
Spaniards recruit their Strength 
Their further Misfortunes 
Tidings from Villa Rica 
Indomitable Spirit of Cortes . 
Discontents of the Army 
Their Remonstrance 
The General's resolute Reply 
Jealousy of the Tlascalans 
Cortes strives to allay it 
F.vents in Mexico 
Preparations for Defence 



xviii CONTENTS. 


Aztec Embassy to Tlascala ....... 404 

Stormy Debate in the Senate 405 

Mexican Alliance rejected ....... 406 


War with the surrounding Tribes. — Successes of the 
Spaniards. — Death of Maxixca. — Arrival of Re- 
inforcements. — Return in Triumph to Tlascala 403 
War with the surrounding Tribes ...... 408 

Battle with the Tepeacans ....... 410 

They are branded as Slaves ....... 410 

Hostilities with the Aztecs renewed . . . . . 412 

Suspicions of the Allies ........ 413 

Cortes heads his Forces ....... 413 

Capture of Quauhquechollan ....... 414 

Mexicans routed 415 

Spaniards follow up the Blow ....... 416 

Cortes' Treatment of his Allies ...... 417 

State of his Resources . . . . . . . .418 

Building of the Brigantines ....... 418 

Death of Maxixca ......... 419 

The Smallpox in Mexico ....... 420 

The disaffected Soldiers leave the Array ..... 421 

Arrival of Reinforcements ....... 421 

Further Good Fortune of Cortes ...... 423 

His Letter to the Emperor ....... 424 

Memorial of the Army ........ 426 

The Policy of Cortes ........ 427 

Returns in Triumph to Tlascala ...... 428 

Prepares for the final Campaign ...... 430 


Guatemozin, Emperor of the Aztecs. — Preparations for 
the March. — Military Code. — Spaniards cross the 
Sierra. — Enter Tezcuco. — Prince Ixtlilxochitl . 431 

The Aztec Monarch dies 431 

The Electors appoint another 431 



Prayer of the High-priest 432 

Guatemozin elected Emperor ....... 434 

Prepares for War 435 

Amount of the Spanish Force ....... 436 

Cortes reviews his Troops 436 

His animated Address ........ 436 

Number of the Indian Allies 437 

Their brilliant Array 438 

Military Code of Cortes 439 

Its Purpose .......... 440 

Its salutary Provisions 440 

The Troops begin their March 443 

Designs of Cortes ........ 443 

He selects his Route 444 

Crosses the Sierra ........ 445 

Magnificent View of the Valley ...... 446 

Energy of Cortes 448 

Affairs in Tezcuco -449 

Spaniards arrive there 450 

Overtures of the Tezcucans ....... 450 

Spanish Quarters in Tezcuco . . . . . . 451 

The Inhabitants leave the Town 452 

Prince Ixtlilxochitl ........ 453 

His youthful Excesses ........ 455 

Disputes the Succession 456 

Becomes the fast Friend of the Spaniards .... 457 

Life and Writings of Gomara ...... 457 

Of Bernal Diaz ,. 459 



e» ) 





Vol. II.— a 










The ancient city of Cholula, capital of the republic 
of that name, lay nearly six leagues south of Tlascala, 
and about twenty east, or rather southeast, of Mexico. 
It was said by Cortes to contain twenty thousand houses 
within the walls, and as many more in the environs ; x 
though now dwindled to a population of less than six- 
teen thousand souls. 8 Whatever was its real number 

1 Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 67. — According to Las Casas, the 
place contained 30,000 vecinos, or about 150,000 inhabitants. (Bre- 
vissima Relatione della Distruttione dell' Indie Occidentale (Venetia.. 
1643).) This latter, being the smaller estimate, is a priori the more 
credible ; especially — a rare occurrence — when in the pages of the 
good Bishop of Chiapa. 

a Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. iii. p. 159. 



of inhabitants, it was unquestionably, at the time of 
the Conquest, one of the most populous and flourish- 
ing cities in New Spain. 

It was of great antiquity, and was founded by the 
primitive races who overspread the land before the 
Aztecs. 3 We have few particulars of its form of gov- 
ernment, which seems to have been cast on a repub- 
lican model similar to that of Tlascala. This answered 
so well that the state maintained its independence 
down to a very late period, when, if not reduced to 
vassalage by the Aztecs, it was so far under their con- 
trol as to enjoy few of the benefits of a separate polit- 
ical existence. Their connection with Mexico brought 
the Cholulans into frequent collision with their neigh- 
bors and kindred the Tlascalans. But, although far 
superior to them in refinement and the various arts of 
civilization, they were no match in war for the bold 
mountaineers, the Swiss of Anahuac. The Cholulan 
capital was the great commercial emporium of the 
plateau. The inhabitants excelled in various mechan- 
ical arts, especially that of working in metals, the 
manufacture of cotton and agave cloths, and of a deli- 
cate kind of pottery, rivalling, it was said, that of 
Florence in beauty. 4 But such attention to the arts of 
a polished and peaceful community naturally indisposed 
them to war, and disqualified them for coping with 
those who made war the great business of life. The 

3 Veytia carries back the foundation of the city to the Ulmecs, a 
people who preceded the Toltecs. (Hist, antig., torn. i. cap. 13, 20.) 
As the latter, after occupying the land several centuries, have left not 
a single written record, probably, of their existence, it will be hard to 
disprove the licentiate's assertion, — still harder to prove it. 

4 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 2. 


Cholulans were accused of effeminacy, and were less 
distinguished — it is the charge of their rivals — by their 
courage than their cunning. 3 

But the capital, so conspicuous for its refinement and 
its great antiquity, was even more venerable for the 
religious traditions which invested it. It was here that 
the god Quetzalcoatl paused in his passage to the coast, 
and passed twenty years in teaching the Toltec inhabit- 
ants the arts of civilization. He made them acquainted 
with better forms of government, and a more spiritual- 
ized religion, in which the only sacrifices were the 
fruits and flowers of the season. 6 It is not easy to 
determine what he taught, since his lessons have been 
so mingled with the licentious dogmas of his own 
priests and the mystic commentaries of the Christian 
missionary. 7 It is probable that he was one of those 
rare and gifted beings who, dissipating the darkness 
of the age by the illumination of their own genius, are 
deified by a grateful posterity and placed among the 
lights of heaven. 

It was in honor of this benevolent deity that the 
stupendous mound was erected on which the traveller 

5 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 58. — 
Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 3, cap. 19. 

6 Veytia, Hist, antig., torn. i. cap. 15, et seq. — Sahagun,. Hist, de 
Nueva-Espana, lib. i, cap. 5 ; lib. 3. 

7 Later divines have found in these teachings of the Toltec god, or 
high-priest, the germs of some of the great mysteries of the Christian 
faith, as those of the Incarnation, and the Trinity, for example. In 
the teacher himself they recognize no less a person than St. Thomas 
the Apostle ! See the Dissertation of the irrefragable Dr. Mier, with 
an edifying commentary by Senor Bustamante, ap. Sahagun. (Hist. 
de Nueva-Espana, torn, i., Suplemento.) The reader will find further 
particulars of this matter in Appendix, Part 1, of this History. 



still gazes with admiration as the most colossal fabric 
in New Spain, rivalling in dimensions, and somewhat 
resembling in form, the pyramidal structures of ancient 
Egypt. The date of its erection is unknown; for it 
was found there when the Aztecs entered on the 
plateau. It had the form common to the Mexican 
teocallis, that of a truncated pyramid, facing with its 
four sides the cardinal points, and divided into the 
same number of terraces. Its original outlines, how- 
ever, have been effaced by the action of time and of the 
elements, while the exuberant growth of shrubs and 
wild flowers, which have mantled over its surface, give 
it the appearance of one of those symmetrical eleva- 
tions thrown up by the caprice of nature rather than 
by the industry of man. It is doubtful, indeed, whether 
the interior be not a natural hill ; though it seems not 
improbable that it is an artificial composition of stone 
and earth, deeply incrusted, as is certain, in every 
part, with alternate strata of brick and clay. 8 

The perpendicular height of the pyramid is one 
hundred and seventy-seven feet. Its base is one thou- 
sand four hundred and twenty-three feet long, twice 
as long as that of the great pyramid of Cheops. It 
may give some idea of its dimensions to state that its 

8 Such, on the whole, seems to be the judgment of M. de Hum- 
boldt, who has examined this interesting monument with his usual 
care. (Vues des Cordilleres, p. 27, et seq. — Essai politique, torn. ii. 
p. 150, et seq.) The opinion derives strong confirmation from the 
fact that a road, cut some years since across the tumulus, laid open a 
large section of it, in which the alternate layers of brick and clay are 
distinctly visible. (Ibid., loc. cit.) The present appearance of this 
monument, covered over with the verdure and vegetable mould of 
centuries, excuses the scepticism of the more superficial traveller. 



base, which is square, covers about forty-four acres, 
and the platform on its truncated summit embraces 
more than one. It reminds us of those colossal 
monuments of brickwork which are still seen in ruins 
on the banks of the Euphrates, and, in much higher 
preservation, on those of the Nile. 9 

On the summit stood a sumptuous temple, in which 
was the image of the mystic deity, "god of the air," 
with ebon features, unlike the fair complexion which 
he bore upon earth, wearing a mitre on his head waving 
with plumes of fii-e, with a resplendent collar of gold 
round his neck, pendants of mosaic turquoise in his 
ears, a jewelled sceptre in one hand, and a shield curi- 
ously painted, the emblem of his rule over the winds, 
in the other. 10 The sanctity of the place, hallowed by 
hoary tradition, and the magnificence of the temple 
and its services, made it an object of veneration 
throughout the land, and pilgrims from the farthest 
corners of Anahuac came to offer up their devotions 
at the shrine of Quetzalcoatl." The number of these 
was so great as to give an air of mendicity to the 

9 Several of the pyramids of Egypt, and the ruins of Babylon, are, 
as is well known, of brick. An inscription on one of the former, 
indeed, celebrates this material as superior to stone. (Herodotus, 
Euterpe, sec. 136.) — Humboldt furnishes an apt illustration of the size 
of the Mexican teocalli, by comparing it to a mass of bricks covering 
a square four times as large as the Place Vendome, and of twice the 
height of the Louvre. Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 152. 

10 A minute account of the costume and insignia of Quetzalcoatl is 
given by Father Sahagun, who saw the Aztec gods before the arm of 
the Christian convert had tumbled them from " their pride of place." 
See Hist, de Nueva-Espana, lib. 1, cap. 3. 

11 They came from the distance of two hundred leagues, says 
Torquemada. Monarch. Ind., lib. 3, cap. 19. 


motley population of the city ; and Cortes, struck with 
the novelty, tells us that he saw multitudes of beggars, 
such as are to be found in the enlightened capitals of 
Europe ; " — a whimsical criterion of civilization, which 
must place our own prosperous land somewhat low in 
the scale. 

Cholula was not the resort only of the indigent 
devotee. Many of the kindred races had temples of 
their own in the city, in the same manner as some 
Christian nations have in Rome, and each temple was 
provided with its own peculiar ministers for the service 
of the deity to whom it was consecrated. In no city 
was there seen such a concourse of priests, so many 
processions, such pomp of ceremonial, sacrifice, and 
religious festivals. Cholula was, in short, what Mecca 
is among Mahometans, or Jerusalem among Christians ; 
it was the Holy City of Anahuac. 13 

The religious rites were not performed, however, in 
the pure spirit originally prescribed by its tutelary 
deity. His altars, as well as those of the numerous 
Aztec gods, were stained with human blood ; and six 
thousand victims are said to have been annually offered 
up at their sanguinary shrines ! u The great number 
of these may be estimated from the declaration of 
Cortes that he counted four hundred towers in the 

12 " Hay mucha gente pobre, y que piden entre los Ricos por las 
Calles, y por las Casas, y Mercados, como hacen los Pobres en 
Espaiia, y en otras partes que hay Gente de razon." Rel. Seg., ap. 
Lorenzana, pp. 67, 68. 

*3 Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 3, cap. 19. — Gomara, Cronlca, 
cap. 61. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 

'4 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 2. — Torquemada, 
Monarch. Ind., ubi supra. 


city ; IS yet no temple had more than two, many only 
one. High above the rest rose the great "pyramid of 
Cholula," with its undying fires flinging their radiance 
far and wide over the capital, and proclaiming to the 
nations that there was the mystic worship — alas ! how 
corrupted by cruelty and superstition ! — of the good 
deity who was one day to return and resume his 
empire over the land. 

Nothing could be more grand than the view which 
met the eye from the area on the truncated summit of 
the pyramid. Towards the west stretched that bold 
barrier of porphyritic rock which nature has reared 
around the Valley of Mexico, with the huge Popo- 
catepetl and Iztaccihuatl standing like two colossal 
sentinels to guard the entrance to the enchanted 
region. Far away to the east was seen the conical 
head of Orizaba soaring high into the clouds, and 
nearer, the barren though beautifully-shaped Sierra de 
la Malinche, throwing its broad shadows over the plains 
of Tlascala. Three of these are volcanoes higher than 
the highest mountain-peak in Europe, and shrouded in 
snows which never melt under the fierce sun of the 
tropics. At the foot of the spectator lay the sacred 
city of Cholula, with its bright towers and pinnacles 
sparkling in the sun, reposing amidst gardens and ver- 
dant groves, which then thickly studded the cultivated 
environs of the capital. Such was the magnificent 
prospect which met the gaze of the Conquerors, and 
may still, with slight change, meet that of the modern 

*s "E certifico a Vuestra Alteza, que yo conte desde una Mezquita 
quatrocientas, y tantas Torres en la dicha Ciudad, y todas son de 
Mezquitas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 67. 


traveller, as from the platform of the great pyramid 
his eye wanders over the fairest portion of the beautiful 
plateau of Puebla. 16 

But it is time to return to Tlascala. On the ap- 
pointed morning the Spanish army took up its march 
to Mexico by the way of Cholula. It was followed 
by crowds of the citizens, filled with admiration at the 
intrepidity of men who, so few in number, would ven- 
ture to brave the great Montezuma in his capital. Yet 
an immense body of warriors offered to share the dan- 
gers of the expedition ; but Cortes, while he showed 
his gratitude for their good will, selected only six 
thousand of the volunteers to bear him company. 17 He 

,6 The city of Puebla de los Angeles was founded by the Spaniards 
soon after the Conquest, on the site of an insignificant village in the 
territory of Cholula, a few miles to the east of that capital. It is, per- 
haps, the most considerable city in New Spain, after Mexico itself, 
which it rivals in beauty. It seems to have inherited the religious 
pre-eminence of the ancient Cholula, being distinguished, like her, 
for the number and splendor of its churches, the multitude of its 
clergy, and the magnificence of its ceremonies and festivals. These 
are fully displayed in the pages of travellers who have passed through 
the place on the usual route from Vera Cruz to the capital. (See, in 
particular, Bullock's Mexico, vol. i. chap. 6.) The environs of Cho- 
lula, still irrigated as in the days of the Aztecs, are equally remarkable 
for the fruitfulness of the soil. The best wheat-lands, according to a 
very respectable authority, yield in the proportion of eighty for one. 
Ward's Mexico, vol. ii. p. 270. — See, also. Humboldt, Essai politique, 
torn. ii. p. 158 ; torn. iv. p. 330. 

*7 According to Cortes, a hundred thousand men offered their 
services on this occasion ! " And although I forbade it, and requested 
that they would not go, since there was no necessity for it, yet I was 
followed by as many as a hundred thousand men well fitted for war, 
who came with me to the distance of nearly two leagues from the city, 
and then through my pressing importunities were induced to return, 
with the exception of five or six thousand, who continued in my com- 


was unwilling to encumber himself with an unwieldy 
force that might impede his movements, and probably 
did not care to put himself so far in the power of allies 
whose attachment was too recent to afford sufficient 
guarantee for their fidelity. 

After crossing some rough and hilly ground, the army 
entered on the wide plain which spreads out for miles 
around Cholula. At the elevation of more than six 
thousand feet above the sea, they beheld the rich pro- 
ducts of various climes growing side by side, fields 
of towering maize, the juicy aloe, the chilli or Aztec 
pepper, and large plantations of the cactus, on which 
the brilliant cochineal is nourished. Not a rood of 
land but was under cultivation ; ,8 and the soil — an 
uncommon thing on the table-land — was irrigated by 
numerous streams and canals, and well shaded by 
woods, that have disappeared before the rude axe of 
the Spaniards. Towards evening they reached a small 
stream, on the banks of which Cortes determined to 
take up his quarters for the night, being unwilling to 
disturb the tranquillity of the city by introducing so 
large a force into it at an unseasonable hour. 

Here he was soon joined by a number of Cholulan 
caciques and their attendants, who came to view and 
welcome the strangers. When they saw their Tlascalan 
enemies in the camp, however, they exhibited signs of 
displeasure, and intimated an apprehension that their 

pany." (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 64.) This, which must have 
been nearly the whole fighting force of the republic, does not startle 
Oviedo (Hist, de las Ind., MS., cap. 4) nor Gomara, Cronica, cap. 58. 
18 The words of the Conquistador are yet stronger. " There is not 
a hand' s-breadth of land that is not cultivated." Rel. Seg., ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 67. 


presence in the town might occasion disorder. The 
remonstrance seemed reasonable to Cortes, and he 
accordingly commanded his allies to remain in their 
present quarters, and to join him as he left the city 
on the way to Mexico. 

On the following morning he made his entrance at 
the head of his army into Cholula, attended by no 
other Indians than those from Cempoalla, and a hand- 
ful of Tlascalans, to take charge of the baggage. His 
allies, at parting, gave him many cautions respecting 
the people he was to visit, who, while they affected to 
despise them as a nation of traders, employed the dan- 
gerous arms of perfidy and cunning. As the troops 
drew near the city, the road was lined with swarms of 
people of both sexes and every age, old men totter- 
ing with infirmity, women with children in their arms, 
all eager to catch a glimpse of the strangers, whose 
persons, weapons, and horses were objects of intense 
curiosity to eyes which had not hitherto ever encoun- 
tered them in battle. The Spaniards, in turn, were 
filled with admiration at the aspect of the Cholulans, 
much superior in dress and general appearance to the 
nations they had hitherto seen. They were particularly 
struck with the costume of the higher classes, who 
wore fine embroidered mantles, resembling the grace- 
ful albo7-noz, or Moorish cloak, in their texture and 
fashion. 19 They showed the same delicate taste for 
flowers as the other tribes of the plateau, decorating 

*9 " All the inhabitants of rank wear, besides their other clothing, 
albornoces, differing from those of Africa inasmuch as they have 
pockets, but very similar in form, in material, and in the bordering." 
Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 67. 



their persons with them, and tossing garlands and 
bunches among the soldiers. An immense number of 
priests mingled with the crowd, swinging their aro- 
matic censers, while music from various kinds of in- 
struments gave a lively welcome to the visitors, and 
made the whole scene one of gay, bewildering enchant- 
ment. If it did not have the air of a triumphal 
procession so much as at Tlascala, where the melody 
of instruments was drowned by the shouts of the 
multitude, it gave a quiet assurance of hospitality and 
friendly feeling not less grateful. 

The Spaniards were also struck with the cleanliness 
of the city, the width and great regularity of the 
streets, which seemed to have been laid out on a settled 
plan, with the solidity of the houses, and the number 
and size of the pyramidal temples. In the court of 
one of these, and its surrounding buildings, they were 
quartered. 20 

30 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 67. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., cap. 84. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 
4. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 82. — The Spaniards 
compared Cholula to the beautiful Valladolid, according to Her- 
rera, whose description of the entry is very animated: " Salieronle 
otro dia a recibir mas de diez mil ciudadanos en diversas tropas, 
con rosas, fiores, pan, aves, i frutas, i mucha musica. Llegaba vn 
esquadron a dar la bien Uegada & Hernando Cortes, i con buena 
6rden se iba apartando, dando lugar a que otro llegase. . . . En 
llegando & la ciudad, que parecio mucho & los Castellanos, en el 
asiento, i perspectiva, & Valladolid, salio la demas gente, quedando 
mui espantada de ver las figuras, talles, i armas de los Castellanos. 
Salieron los sacerdotes con vestiduras blancas, como sobrepellices, 
i algunas cerradas por delante, los bracos defuera, con fluecos de 
algodon en las orillas. Unos llevaban figuras de idolos en las 
manos, otros sahumerios ; otros tocaban cornetas, atabalejos, i diversas 
Vol.. II. 2 


They were soon visited by the principal lords of the 
place, who seemed solicitous to provide them with 
accommodations. Their table was plentifully supplied, 
and, in short, they experienced such attentions as were 
calculated to dissipate their suspicions, and made them 
impute those of their Tlascalan friends to prejudice 
and old national hostility. 

In a few days the scene changed. Messengers arrived 
from Montezuma, who, after a short and unpleasant 
intimation to Cortes that his approach occasioned 
much disquietude to their master, conferred separately 
with the Mexican ambassadors still in the Castilian 
camp, and then departed, taking one of the latter 
along with them. From this time the deportment of 
their Cholulan hosts underwent a visible alteration. 
They did not visit the quarters as before, and, when 
invited to do so, excused themselves on pretence of 
illness. The supply of provisions was stinted, on the 
ground that they were short of maize. These symptoms 
of alienation, independently of temporary embarrass- 
ment, caused serious alarm in the breast of Cortes, for 
the future. His apprehensions were not allayed by the 
reports of the Cempoallans, who told him that in 
wandering round the city they had seen several streets 
barricadoed, the azoteas, or flat roofs of the houses, 
loaded with huge stones and other missiles, as if pre- 
paratory to an assault, and in some places they had 
found holes covered over with branches, and upright 
stakes planted within, as if to embarrass the move- 

musicas, i todos iban cantando, i llegaban a encensar a los Castella- 
nos. Con esta pompa entraron en Chulula." Hist, general, dec. 2, 
lib. 7, cap. i. 


ments of the cavalry. 21 Some Tlascalans coming in, 
also, from their camp, informed the general that a great 
sacrifice, mostly of children, had been offered up in a 
distant quarter of the town, to propitiate the favor of 
the gods, apparently for some intended enterprise. 
They added that they had seen numbers of the citizens 
leaving the city with their women and children, as if 
to remove them to a place of safety. These tidings 
confirmed the worst suspicions of Cortes, who had no 
doubt that some hostile scheme was in agitation. If he 
had felt any, a discovery by Marina, the good angel of 
the expedition, would have turned these doubts into 

The amiable manners of the Indian girl had won her 
the regard of the wife of one of the caciques, who 
repeatedly urged Marina to visit her house, darkly in- 
timating that in this way she would escape the fate that 
awaited the Spaniards. The interpreter, seeing the 
importance of obtaining further intelligence at once, 
pretended to be pleased with the proposal, and affected, 
at the same time, great discontent with the white men, 
by whom she was detained in captivity. Thus throw- 
ing the credulous Cholulan off her guard, Marina 
gradually insinuated herself into her confidence, so far 
as to draw from her a full account of the conspiracy. 

21 Cortes, indeed, noticed these same alarming appearances on his 
entering the city, thus suggesting the idea of a premeditated treachery. 
" On the road we noticed many indications such as the natives of this 
province had told us of; for we found the royal road barred up and 
another opened, and some holes dug, — though not many, — and some 
of the streets of the city barricadoed, and many stones upon the roofs ; 
which put us more upon our guard and caused us to exercise great 
caution." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 64. 


It originated, she said, with the Aztec emperor, who 
had sent rich bribes to the great caciques, and to her 
husband among others, to secure them in his views. 
The Spaniards were to be assaulted as they marched 
out of the capital, when entangled in its streets, in 
which numerous impediments had been placed to throw 
the cavalry into disorder. A force of twenty thousand 
Mexicans was already quartered at no great distance 
from the city, to support the Cholulans in the assault. 
It was confidently expected that the Spaniards, thus 
embarrassed in their movements, would fall an easy 
prey to the superior strength of their enemy. A suf- 
ficient number of prisoners was to be reserved to grace 
the sacrifices of Cholula; the rest were to be led in 
fetters to the capital of Montezuma. 

While this conversation was going on, Marina oc- 
cupied herself with putting up such articles of value 
and wearing-apparel as she proposed to take with her 
in the evening, when she could escape unnoticed from 
the Spanish quarters to the house of her Cholulan 
friend, who assisted her in the operation. Leaving her 
visitor thus employed, Marina found an opportunity to 
steal away for a few moments, and, going to the 
general's apartment, disclosed to him her discoveries. 
He immediately caused the cacique's wife to be seized 
and, on examination, she fully confirmed the statement 
of his Indian mistress. 

The intelligence thus gathered by Cortes filled him 
with the deepest alarm. He was fairly taken in the 
snare. To fight or to fly seemed equally difficult. He 
was in a city of enemies, where every house might be 
converted into a fortress, and where such embarrass- 



ments were thrown in the way as might render the man- 
oeuvres of his artillery and horse nearly impracticable. 
In addition to the wily Cholulans, he must cope, under 
all these disadvantages, with the redoubtable warriors 
of Mexico. He was like a traveller who has lost his 
way in the darkness among precipices, where any step 
may dash him to pieces, and where to retreat or to 
advance is equally perilous. 

He was desirous to obtain still further confirmation 
and particulars of the conspiracy. He accordingly 
induced two of the priests in the neighborhood, one 
of them a person of much influence in the place, to 
visit his quarters. By courteous treatment, and liberal 
largesses of the rich presents he had received from 
Montezuma, — thus turning his own gifts against the 
giver, — he drew from them a full confirmation of the 
previous report. The emperor had been in a state of 
pitiable vacillation since the arrival of the Spaniards. 
His first orders to the Cholulans were to receive the 
strangers kindly. He had recently consulted his oracles 
anew, and obtained for answer that Cholula would be 
the grave of his enemies ; for the gods would be sure 
to support him in avenging the sacrilege offered to the 
Holy City. So confident were the Aztecs of success, 
that numerous manacles, or poles with thongs which 
served as such, were already in the place to secure the 

Cortes, now feeling himself fully possessed of the 
facts, dismissed the priests, with injunctions of secrecy, 
scarcely necessary. He told them it was his purpose 
to leave the city on the following morning, and re- 
quested that they would induce some of the principal 


caciques to grant him an interview in his quarters. He 
then summoned a council of his officers, though, as it 
seems, already determined as to the course he was to take. 

The members of the council were differently affected 
by the startling intelligence, according to their dif- 
ferent characters. The more timid, disheartened by 
the prospect of obstacles which seemed to multiply as 
they drew nearer the Mexican capital, were for re- 
tracing their steps and seeking shelter in the friendly 
city of Tlascala. Others, more persevering, but prudent, 
were for taking the more northerly route, originally 
recommended by their allies. The greater part sup- 
ported the general, who was ever of opinion that they 
had no alternative but to advance. Retreat would be 
ruin. Half-way measures were scarcely better, and 
would infer a timidity which must discredit them with 
both friend and foe. Their true policy was to rely 
on themselves, — to strike such a blow as should in- 
timidate their enemies and show them that the Span- 
iards were as incapable of being circumvented by arti- 
fice as of being crushed by weight of numbers and 
courage in the open field. 

When the caciques, persuaded by the priests, ap- 
peared before Cortes, he contented himself with gently 
rebuking their want of hospitality, and assured them 
the Spaniards would be no longer a burden to their 
city, as he proposed to leave it early on the following 
morning. He requested, moreover, that they would 
furnish a reinforcement of two thousand men to trans- 
port his artillery and baggage. The chiefs, after some 
consultation, acquiesced in a demand which might in 
some measure favor their own designs. 


J 9 

On their departure, the general summoned the Aztec 
ambassadors before him. He briefly acquainted them 
with his detection of the treacherous plot to destroy 
his army, the contrivance of which, he said, was im- 
puted to their master, Montezuma. It grieved him 
much, he added, to find the emperor implicated in so 
nefarious a scheme, and that the Spaniards must now 
march as enemies against the prince whom they had 
hoped to visit as a friend. 

The ambassadors, with earnest protestations, asserted 
their entire ignorance of the conspiracy, and their 
belief that Montezuma was equally innocent of a crime 
which they charged wholly on the Cholulans. It was 
clearly the policy of Cortes to keep on good terms with 
the Indian monarch, to profit as long as possible by his 
good offices, and to avail himself of his fancied security 
— such feelings of security as the general could inspire 
him with — to cover his own future operations. He 
affected to give credit, therefore, to the assertion of the 
envoys, and declared his unwillingness to believe that 
a monarch who had rendered the Spaniards so many 
friendly offices would now consummate the whole by 
a deed of such unparalleled baseness. The discovery 
of their twofold duplicity, he added, sharpened his 
resentment against the Cholulans, on whom he would 
take such vengeance as should amply requite the in- 
juries done both to Montezuma and the Spaniards. He 
then dismissed the ambassadors, taking care, notwith- 
standing this show of confidence, to place a strong guard 
over them, to prevent communication with the citizens. 23 

*■ Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 83. — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 59. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 65. — Torquemada, 


That night was one of deep anxiety to the army. 
The ground they stood on seemed loosening beneath 
their feet, and any moment might be the one marked 
for their destruction. Their vigilant general took all 
possible precautions for their safety, increasing the 
number of the sentinels, and posting his guns in such 
a manner as to protect the approaches to the camp. 
His eyes, it may well be believed, did not close during 
the night. Indeed, every Spaniard lay down in his arms, 
and every horse stood saddled and bridled, ready for 
instant service. But no assault was meditated by the 
Indians, and the stillness of the hour was undisturbed 
except by the occasional sounds heard in a populous 
city, even when buried in slumber, and by the hoarse 
cries of the priests from the turrets of the teocallis, 
proclaiming through their trumpets the watches of the 
night. 23 

Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 39. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
83, cap. 4. — Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 2. — Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 1. — Argensola, Anales, lib. 1, cap. 85. 

=3 " Las horas de la noche las regulaban por las estrellas, y tocaban 
los ministros del templo que estaban destinados para este fin, ciertos 
instrumentos como vocinas, con que hacian conocer al pueblo el 
tiempo." Gama, Description, Parte 1, p. 14. 





With the first streak of morning light, Cortes was 
seen on horseback, directing the movements of his 
little band. The strength of his forces he drew up in 
the great square or court, surrounded partly by build- 
ings, as before noticed, and in part by a high wall. 
There were three gates of entrance, at each of which 
he placed a strong guard. The rest of his troops, with 
his great guns, he posted without the enclosure, in such 
a manner as to command the avenues and secure those 
within from interruption in their bloody work. Orders 
had been sent the night before to the Tlascalan chiefs 
to hold themselves ready, at a concerted signal, to 
march into the city and join the Spaniards. 

The arrangements were hardly completed, before the 
Cholulan caciques appeared, leading a body of levies, 
tamanes, even more numerous than had been demanded. 
They were marched at once into the square, com- 
manded, as we have seen, by the Spanish infantry, 
which was drawn up under the walls. Cortes then 
took some of the caciques aside. With a stern air, he 
bluntly charged them with the conspiracy, showing 



that he was well acquainted with all the particulars. 
He had visited their city, he said, at the invita- 
tion of their emperor ; had come as a friend ; had 
respected the inhabitants and their property ; and, to 
avoid all cause of umbrage, had left a great part of 
his forces without the walls. They had received him 
with a show of kindness and hospitality, and, reposing 
on this, he had been decoyed into the snare, and 
found this kindness only a mask to cover the black- 
est perfidy. 

The Cholulans were thunderstruck at the accusation. 
An undefined awe crept over them as they gazed on 
the mysterious strangers and felt themselves in the 
presence of beings who seemed to have the power of 
reading the thoughts scarcely formed in their bosoms. 
There was no use in prevarication or denial before 
such judges. They confessed the whole, and endeav- 
ored to excuse themselves by throwing the blame on 
Montezuma. Cortes, assuming an air of higher indig- 
nation at this, assured them that the pretence should 
not serve, since, even if well founded, it would be no 
justification ; and he would now make such an example 
of them for their treachery that the report of it should 
ring throughout the wide borders of Anahuac ! 

The fatal signal, the discharge of an arquebuse, was 
then given. In an instant every musket and cross-bow 
was levelled at the unfortunate Cholulans in the court- 
yard, and a frightful volley poured into them as they 
stood crowded together like a herd of deer in the 
centre. They were taken by surprise, for they had not 
heard the preceding dialogue with the chiefs. They 
made scarcely any resistance to the Spaniards, who 


2 3 

followed up the discharge of their pieces by rushing on 
them with their swords ; and, as the half-naked bodies 
of the natives afforded no protection, they hewed them 
down with as much ease as the reaper mows down the 
ripe corn in harvest-time. Some endeavored to scale 
the walls, but only afforded a surer mark to the arque- 
busiers and archers. Others threw themselves into the 
gateways, but were received on the long pikes of the 
soldiers who guarded them. Some few had better luck 
in hiding themselves under the heaps of slain with 
which the ground was soon loaded. 

While this work of death was going on, the country- 
men of the slaughtered Indians, drawn together by the 
noise of the massacre, had commenced a furious assault 
on the Spaniards from without. But Cortes had placed 
his battery of heavy guns in a position that commanded 
the avenues, and swept off the files of the assailants as 
they rushed on. In the intervals between the dis- 
charges, which, in the imperfect state of the science 
in that day, were much longer than in ours, he forced 
back the press by charging with the horse into the 
midst. The steeds, the guns, the weapons of the 
Spaniards were all new to the Cholulans. Notwith- 
standing the novelty of the terrific spectacle, the flash 
of fire-arms mingling with the deafening roar of the 
artillery as its thunders reverberated among the build- 
ings, the despairing Indians pushed on to take the 
places of their fallen comrades. 

While this fierce struggle was going forward, the 
Tlascalans, hearing the concerted signal, had advanced 
with quick pace into the city. They had bound, by 
order of Cortes, wreaths of sedge round their heads, 


that they might the more surely be distinguished from 
the Cholulans. 1 Coming up in the very heat of the 
engagement, they fell on the defenceless rear of the 
townsmen, who, trampled down under the heels of the 
Castilian cavalry on one side, and galled by their vin- 
dictive enemies on the other, could no longer maintain 
their ground. They gave way, some taking refuge in 
the nearest buildings, which, being partly of wood, 
were speedily set on fire. Others fled to the temples. 
One strong party, with a number of priests at its head, 
got possession of the great teocalli. There was a vulgar 
tradition, already alluded to, that on removal of part 
of the walls the god would send forth an inundation 
to overwhelm his enemies. The superstitious Cholu- 
lans with great difficulty succeeded in wrenching away 
some of the stones in the walls of the edifice. But 
dust, not water, followed. Their false god deserted 
them in the hour of need. In despair they flung them- 
selves into the wooden turrets that crowned the temple, 
and poured down stones, javelins, and burning arrows 
on the Spaniards, as they climbed the great staircase 
which, by a flight of one hundred and twenty steps, 
scaled the face of the pyramid. But the fiery shower 
fell harmless on the steel bonnets of the Christians, 
while they availed themselves of the burning shafts 
to set fire to the wooden citadel, which was speedily 
wrapt in flames. Still the garrison held out, and though 

1 " Us&ron los de Tlaxcalla de un aviso muy bueno y les dio Her- 
nando Cortes porque fueran conocidos y no morir entre los enemigos 
por yerro, porque sus armas y divisas eran casi de una manera; . . . 
y ansi se pusieron en las cabezas unas guirnaldas de esparto a manera 
de torzales, y con esto eran conoc-dos los de nuestra parcialidad que 
no fue pequefio aviso." Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 



quarter, it is said, was offered, only one Cholulan 
availed himself of it. The rest threw themselves head- 
long from the parapet, or perished miserably in the 
flames. 2 

All was now confusion and uproar in the fair city 
which had so lately reposed in security and peace. 
The groans of the dying, the frantic supplications of 
the vanquished for mercy, were mingled with the loud 
battle-cries of the Spaniards as they rode down their 
enemy, and with the shrill whistle of the Tlascalans, 
who gave full scope to the long-cherished rancor of 
ancient rivalry. The tumult was still further swelled 
by the incessant rattle of musketry, and the crash of 
falling timbers, which sent up a volume of flame that 
outshone the ruddy light of morning, making alto- 
gether a hideous confusion of sights and sounds that 
converted the Holy City into a Pandemonium. As 
resistance slackened, the victors broke into the houses 
and sacred places, plundering them of whatever valu- 
ables they contained, plate, jewels, which were found 
in some quantity, wearing-apparel and provisions, the 
two last coveted even more than the former by the 
simple Tlascalans, thus facilitating a division of the 
spoil much to the satisfaction of their Christian con- 
federates. Amidst this universal license, it is worthy 
of remark, the commands of Cortes were so far re- 
spected that no violence was offered to women or 
children, though these, as well as numbers of the men, 
were made prisoners to be swept into slavery by the 

2 Camargo, Hist. deTlascala, MS. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. 4, 45. — Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 40. — 
Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 84. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 60. 
Vol. II. — b 3 


Tlascalans. 3 These scenes of violence had lasted some 
hours, when Cortes, moved by the entreaties of some 
Cholulan chiefs who had been reserved from the mas- 
sacre, backed by the prayers of the Mexican envoys, 
consented, out of regard, as he said, to the latter, the 
representatives of Montezuma, to call off the soldiers, 
aud put a stop, as well as he could, to further outrage.* 
Two of the caciques were, also, permitted to go to their 
countrymen with assurances of pardon and protection 
to all who would return to their obedience. 

These measures had their effect. By the joint efforts 
of Cortes and the caciques, the tumult was with much 
difficulty appeased. The assailants, Spaniards and In- 
dians, gathered under their respective banners, and the 
Cholulans, relying on the assurance of their chiefs, 
gradually returned to their homes. 

The first act of Cortes was to prevail on the Tlas- 
calan chiefs to liberate their captives. 4 Such was their 
deference to the Spanish commander that they acqui- 
esced, though not without murmurs, contenting them- 
selves, as they best could, with the rich spoil rifled 

3 "They killed nearly six thousand persons, but touched neither 
women nor children, for so it had been ordered." Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 2. 

4 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 83. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., ubi supra. 

* [Andres de Tdpia, who participated in the massacre, says that the 
work of destroying the city ("el trabajar por destruir la cibdad") went 
on for two days, before Cortes gave orders for it to cease, and that it 
was not till two or three days later that the inhabitants, many of whom 
had fled to the mountains and neighboring territory, obtained pardon 
and leave to return. Col. de Doc. para la Hist, de Mexico, publicada 
por Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, torn. ii. — Ed.] 


from the Cholulans, consisting of various luxuries long 
since unknown in Tlascala. His next care was to 
cleanse the city from its loathsome impurities, particu- 
larly from the dead bodies which lay festering in heaps 
in the streets and great square. The general, in his 
letter to Charles the Fifth, admits three thousand slain, 
most accounts say six, and some swell the amount yet 
higher. As the eldest and principal cacique was among 
the number, Cortes assisted the Cholulans in installing 
a successor in his place. 5 By these pacific measures 
confidence was gradually restored. The people in the 
environs, reassured, flocked into the capital to supply 
the place of the diminished population. The markets 
were again opened ; and the usual avocations of an 
orderly, industrious community were resumed. Still, 
the long piles of black and smouldering ruins pro- 
claimed the hurricane which had so lately swept over 
the city, and the walls surrounding the scene of 
slaughter in the great square, which were standing 
more than fifty years after the event, told the sad tale 
of the Massacre of Cholula. 6 

5 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 83. — The descendants of 
the principal Cholulan cacique are living at this day in Puebla, accord- 
ing to Bustamante. See Gomara, Cronica, trad, de Chimalpain (Me- 
xico, 1826), torn. i. p. 98, nota. 

6 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 66. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlas- 
cala, MS. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 84.— Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 4, 45. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 83. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 60. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva- 
Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 11. — Las Casas, in his printed treatise on 
the Destruction of the Indies, garnishes his account of these transac- 
tions with some additional and rather startling particulars. According 
to him, Cortes caused a hundred or more of the caciques to be impaled 
or roasted at the stake ! He adds the report that, while the massacre 


This passage in their history is one of those that 
have left a dark stain on the memory of the Con- 
querors. Nor can we contemplate at this day, without 
a shudder, the condition of this fair and nourishing 
capital thus invaded in its privacy and delivered over 
to the excesses of a rude and ruthless soldiery. But, 
to judge the action fairly, we must transport ourselves 
to the age when it happened. The difficulty that meets 
us in the outset is, to find a justification of the right 
of conquest, at all. But it should be remembered that 
religious infidelity, at this period, and till a much later, 
was regarded — no matter whether founded on igno- 

in the court-yard was going on, the Spanish general repeated a scrap 
of an old romance, describing Nero as rejoicing over the burning ruins 

of Rome: 

" Mira Nero de Tarpeya, 
A Roma como se ardia. 
Gritos dan nifios y viejos, 
Y el de nada se dolia." 

(Brevisima Relacion, p. 46.) 

This is the first instance, I suspect, on record of any person being 
ambitious of finding a parallel for himself in that emperor ! Bernal 
Diaz, who had seen "the interminable narrative," as he calls it, of 
Las Casas, treats it with great contempt. His own version — one of 
those chiefly followed in the text — was corroborated by the report of 
the missionaries, who, after the Conquest, visited Cholula, and investi- 
gated the affair with the aid of the priests and several old survivors 
who had witnessed it. It is confirmed in its substantial details by the 
other contemporary accounts. The excellent Bishop of Chiapa wrote 
with the avowed object of moving the sympathies of his countrymen 
in behalf of the oppressed natives ; a generous object, certainly, but 
one that has too often warped his judgment from the strict line of 
historic impartiality. He was not an eye-witness of the transactions 
in New Spain, and was much too willing to receive whatever would 
make for his case, and to " over-red," if I may so say, his argument 
with such details of blood and slaughter as, from their very extrava- 
gance, carry their own refutation with them. 



ranee or education, whether hereditary or acquired, 
heretical or pagan — as a sin to be punished with fire 
and fagot in this world, and eternal suffering in the 
next. This doctrine, monstrous as it is, was the creed 
of the Romish, in other words, of the Christian 
Church, — the basis of the Inquisition, and of those 
other species of religious persecutions which have 
stained the annals, at some time or other, of nearly 
every nation in Christendom. 7 Under this code, the 
territory of the heathen, wherever found, was regarded 
as a sort of religious waif, which, in default of a legal 
proprietor, was claimed and taken possession of by 
the Holy See, and as such was freely given away by 
the head of the Church, to any temporal potentate 
whom he pleased, that would assume the burden of 

7 For an illustration of the above remark the reader is referred to 
the closing pages of chap. 7, Part II., of the " History of Ferdinand 
and Isabella," where I have taken some pains to show how deep- 
settled were these convictions in Spain at the period with which we 
are now occupied. The world had gained little in liberality since 
the age of Dante, who could coolly dispose of the great and good of 
antiquity in one of the circles of Hell because — no fault of theirs, 
certainly — they had come into the world too soon. The memorable 
verses, like many others of the immortal bard, are a proof at once of 
the strength and weakness of the human understanding. They may 
be cited as a fair exponent of the popular feeling at the beginning of 
the sixteenth century : 

" Ch' ei non peccaro, e, s'egli hanno mercedi, 
Non basta, perch' e' non ebber battesmo, 
Ch' e porta della fede che tu credi. 
E, se furon dinanzi al Cristianesmo, 
Non adorar debitamente Dio ; 
E di questi cotai son io medesmo 
Fer tai difetti, e non per altro rio, 
Semo perduti, e sol di tanto offesi 
Che sanza speme vivemo in disio." 

Inferno, canto 4. 



conquest. 8 Thus, Alexander the Sixth generously 
granted a large portion of the Western hemisphere to 
the Spaniards, and of the Eastern to the Portuguese. 
These lofty pretensions of the successors of the humble 
fisherman of Galilee, far from being nominal, were ac- 
knowledged and appealed to as conclusive in contro- 
versies between nations. 9 

With the right of conquest, thus conferred, came 
also the obligation, on which it may be said to have 
been founded, to retrieve the nations sitting in dark- 
ness from eternal perdition. This obligation was ac- 
knowledged by the best and the bravest, the gownsman 
in his closet, the missionary, and the warrior in the 
crusade. However much it may have been debased by 
temporal motives and mixed up with worldly consider- 
ations of ambition and avarice, it was still active in the 
mind of the Christian conqueror. We have seen how 
far paramount it was to every calculation of personal 
interest in the breast of Cortes. The concession of 

8 It is in the same spirit that the laws of Oleron, the maritime code 
of so high authority in the Middle Ages, abandon the property of the 
infidel, in common with that of pirates, as fair spoil to the true believer ! 
" S'ilz sont pyrates, pilleurs, ou escumeurs de mer, ou Turcs, ct autj-es 
contraires et ennemis de nostredicte foy catholicque, chascun peut pren- 
dre sur telles manieres de gens, comme sur chiens, si peut Von les des- 
robber et spoiler de leurs blens sans pugnitlon. C'est le jugement." 
Jugemens d'Oleron, Art. 45, ap. Collection de Lois maritimes, par J. 
M. Pardessus (ed. Paris, 1828), torn. i. p. 351. 

9 The famous bull of partition became the basis of the treaty of 
Tordesillas, by which the Castilian and Portuguese governments de- 
termined the boundary-line of their respective discoveries ; a line that 
secured the vast empire of Brazil to the latter, which from priority of 
occupation should have belonged to their rivals. See the History of 
Ferdinand and Isabella, Part I. chap. 18; Part II. chap. 9, — the 
closing pages of each. 


3 1 

the Pope, then, founded on, and enforcing, the im- 
perative duty of conversion, 10 was the assumed basis — ■ 
and, in the apprehension of that age, a sound one — of 
the right of conquest." 

10 It is the condition, unequivocally expressed and reiterated, on 
which Alexander VI., in his famous bulls of May 3d and 4th, 1493, 
conveys to Ferdinand and Isabella full and absolute right over all 
such territories in the Western World as may not have been pre- 
viously occupied by Christian princes. See these precious documents 
in extcnso, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de los Viages y Descubri- 
mientos (Madrid, 1825), torn. ii. Nos. 17, 18. 

11 The ground on which Protestant nations assert a natural right to 
the fruits of their discoveries in the New World is very different. 
They consider that the earth was intended for cultivation, and that 
Providence never designed that hordes of wandering savages should 
hold a territory far more than necessary for their own maintenance, to 
the exclusion of civilized man. Yet it may be thought, as far as im- 
provement of the soil is concerned, that this argument would afford 
us but an indifferent tenure for much of our own unoccupied and un- 
cultivated territory, far exceeding what is demanded for our present 
or prospective support. As to a right founded on difference of civil- 
ization, this is obviously a still more uncertain criterion. It is to the 
credit of our Puritan ancestors that they did not avail themselves of 
any such interpretation of the law of nature, and still less rely on the 
powers conceded by King James's patent, asserting rights as absolute, 
nearly, as those claimed by the Roman See. On the contrary, they 
established their title to the soil by fair purchase of the aborigines ; 
thus forming an honorable contrast to the policy pursued by too many 
of the settlers on the American continents. It should be remarked 
that, whatever difference of opinion may have subsisted between the 
Roman Catholic — or rather the Spanish and Portuguese — nations and 
the rest of Europe, in regard to the true foundation of their titles in a 
moral view, they have always been content, in their controversies with 
one another, to rest them exclusively on priority of discovery. For a 
brief view of the discussion, see Vattel (Droit des Gens, sec. 209), and 
especially Kent (Commentaries on American Law, vol. iii. lee. 51), 
where it is handled with much perspicuity and eloquence. The argu- 
ment, as founded on the law of nations, may be found in the celebrated 



This right could not, indeed, be construed to author- 
ize any unnecessary act of violence to the natives. The 
present expedition, up to the period of its history at 
which we are now arrived, had probably been stained 
with fewer of such acts than almost any similar enter- 
prise of the Spanish discoverers in the New World. 
Throughout the campaign, Cortes had prohibited all 
wanton injuries to the natives in person or property, 
and had punished the perpetrators of them with ex- 
emplary severity. He had been faithful to his friends, 
and, with perhaps a single exception, not unmerciful 
to his foes. Whether from policy or principle, it 
should be recorded to his credit ; though, like every 
sagacious mind, he may have felt that principle and 
policy go together. 

He had entered Cholula as a friend, at the invitation 
of the Indian emperor, who had a real, if not avowed, 
control over the state. He had been received as a 
friend, with every demonstration of good will ; when, 
without any offence of his own or his followers, he 
found they were to be the victims of an insidious plot, 
— that they were standing on a mine which might be 
sprung at any moment and bury them all in its ruins. 
His safety, as he truly considered, left no alternative but 
to anticipate the blow of his enemies. Yet who can 

case of Johnson v. Mcintosh. (Wheaton, Reports of Cases in the 
Supreme Court of the United States, vol. viii. p. 543, et seq.) If it 
were not treating a grave discussion too lightly, I should crave leave 
to refer the reader to the renowned Diedrich Knickerbocker's History 
of New York (book 1, chap. 5) for a luminous disquisition on this 
knotty question. At all events, he will find there the popular argu- 
ments subjected to the test of ridicule ; a test showing, more than any 
reasoning can, how much, or rather how little, they are really worth. 



doubt that the punishment thus inflicted was excessive, 
— that the same end might have been attained by 
directing the blow against the guilty chiefs, instead of 
letting it fall on the ignorant rabble who but obeyed 
the commands of their masters? But when was it ever 
seen that fear, armed with power, was scrupulous in the 
exercise of it ? or that the passions of a fierce soldiery, 
inflamed by conscious injuries, could be regulated in 
the moment of explosion ? 

We shall, perhaps, pronounce more impartially on 
the conduct of the Conquerors if we compare it with 
that of our own contemporaries under somewhat similar 
circumstances. The atrocities at Cholula were not so 
bad as those inflicted on the descendants of these very 
Spaniards, in the late war of the Peninsula, by the 
most polished nations of our time ; by the British at 
Badajoz, for example, — at Tarragona, and a hundred 
other places, by the French. The wanton butchery, 
the ruin of property, and, above all, those outrages 
worse than death, from which the female part of the 
population were protected at Cholula, show a catalogue 
of enormities quite as black as those imputed to the 
Spaniards, and without the same apology for resent- 
ment, — with no apology, indeed, but that afforded by 
a brave and patriotic resistance. The consideration 
of these events, which, from their familiarity, make 
little impression on our senses, should render us more 
lenient in our judgments of the past, showing, as they 
do, that man in a state of excitement, savage or civil- 
ized, is much the same in every age. It may teach us 
— it is one of the best lessons of history — that, since 
such are the inevitable evils of war, even among the 



most polished people, those who hold the destinies of 
nations in their hands, whether rulers or legislators, 
should submit to every sacrifice, save that of honor, 
before authorizing an appeal to arms. The extreme 
solicitude to avoid these calamities, by the aid of 
peaceful congresses and impartial mediation, is, on the 
whole, the strongest evidence, stronger than that af- 
forded by the progress of science and art, of our boasted 
advance in civilization. 

It is far from my intention to vindicate the cruel 
deeds of the old Conquerors. Let them lie heavy on 
their heads. They were an iron race, who perilled 
life and fortune in the cause ; and, as they made little 
account of danger and suffering for themselves, they 
had little sympathy to spare for their unfortunate ene- 
mies. But, to judge them fairly, we must not do it 
by the lights of our own age. We must carry our- 
selves back to theirs, and take the point of view afforded 
by the civilization of their time. Thus only can we 
arrive at impartial criticism in reviewing the genera- 
tions that are past. We must extend to them the same 
justice which we shall have occasion to ask from pos- 
terity, when, by the light of a higher civilization, it 
surveys the dark or doubtful passages in our own history, 
which hardly arrest the eye of the contemporary. 

But, whatever be thought of this transaction in a 
moral view, as a stroke of policy it was unquestionable. 
The nations of Anahuac had beheld, with admiration 
mingled with awe, the little band of Christian warriors 
steadily advancing along the plateau in face of every 
obstacle, overturning army after army with as much 
ease, apparently, as the good ship throws off the angry 



billows from her bows, or rather like the lava, which, 
rolling from their own volcanoes, holds on its course 
unchecked by obstacles, rock, tree, or building, bear- 
ing them along, or crushing and consuming them in 
its fiery path. The prowess of the Spaniards — " the 
white gods," as they were often called 12 — made them 
to be thought invincible. But it was not till their 
arrival at Cholula that the natives learned how terrible 
was their vengeance ; and they trembled ! 

None trembled more than the Aztec emperor on his 
throne among the mountains. He read in these events 
the dark characters traced by the finger of Destiny. 13 
He felt his empire melting away like a morning mist. 
He might well feel so. Some of the most important 
cities in the neighborhood of Cholula, intimidated by 
the fate of that capital, now sent their envoys to the 
Castilian camp, tendering their allegiance, and pro- 
pitiating the favor of the strangers by rich presents 
of gold and slaves. 14 Montezuma, alarmed at these 

12 Los Dioses blancos. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — Torque- 
mada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 40. 

*3 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 11. — In an 
old Aztec harangue, made as a matter of form on the accession of a 
prince, we find the following remarkable prediction : " Perhaps ye are 
dismayed at the prospect of the terrible calamities that are one day to 
overwhelm us, calamities foreseen and foretold, though not felt, by 
our fathers ! . . . when the destruction and desolation of the empire 
shall come, when all shall be plunged in darkness, when the hour shall 
arrive in which they shall make us slaves throughout the land, and we 
shall be condemned to the lowest and most degrading offices !" (Ibid., 
lib. 6, cap. 16.) This random shot of prophecy, which I have rendered 
literally, shows how strong and settled was the apprehension of some 
impending revolution. 

*4 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 3. 



signs of defection, took counsel again of his impotent 
deities ; but, although the altars smoked with fresh 
hecatombs of human victims, he obtained no cheering 
response. He determined, therefore, to send another 
embassy to the Spaniards, disavowing any participation 
in the conspiracy of Cholula. 

Meanwhile Cortes was passing his time in that cap- 
ital. He thought that the impression produced by the 
late scenes, and by the present restoration of tran- 
quillity, offered a fair opportunity for the good work 
of conversion. He accordingly urged the citizens to 
embrace the Cross and abandon the false guardians who 
had abandoned them in their extremity. But the tra- 
ditions of centuries rested on the Holy City, shedding 
a halo of glory around it as " the sanctuary of the 
gods," the religious capital of Anahuac. It was too 
much to expect that the people would willingly resign 
this pre-eminence and descend to the level of an ordi- 
nary community. Still Cortes might have pressed the 
matter, however unpalatable, but for the renewed inter- 
position of the wise Olmedo, who persuaded him to post- 
pone it till after the reduction of the whole country. 15 

The Spanish general, however, had the satisfaction 
to break open the cages in which the victims for sacri- 
fice were confined, and to dismiss the trembling inmates 
to liberty and life. He also seized upon the great 
teocalli, and devoted that portion of the building which, 
being of stone, had escaped the fury of the flames, to 
the purposes of a Christian church ; while a crucifix 
of stone and lime, of gigantic dimensions, spreading 
out its arms above the city, proclaimed that the popula- 

*s Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 83. 



tion below was under the protection of the Cross. On 
the same spot now stands a temple overshadowed by 
dark cypresses of unknown antiquity, and dedicated to 
Our Lady de los Remedios. An image of the Virgin 
presides over it, said to have been left by the Conqueror 
himself; 16 and an Indian ecclesiastic, a descendant of 
the ancient Cholulans, performs the peaceful services 
of the Roman Catholic communion on the spot where 
his ancestors celebrated the sanguinary rites of the 
mystic Quetzalcoatl. 17 

During the occurrence of these events, envoys arrived 
from Mexico. They were charged, as usual, with a rich 
present of plate and ornaments of gold, among others, 
artificial birds in imitation of turkeys, with plumes of 
the same precious metal. To these were added fifteen 
hundred cotton dresses of delicate fabric. The em- 
peror even expressed his regret at the catastrophe of 
Cholula, vindicated himself from any share in the con- 
spiracy, which he said had brought deserved retribution 
on the heads of its authors, and explained the existence 
of an Aztec force in the neighborhood by the necessity 
of repressing some disorders there. 18 

One cannot contemplate this pusillanimous conduct 
of Montezuma without mingled feelings of pity and 
contempt. It is not easy to reconcile his assumed 
innocence of the plot with many circumstances con- 
nected with it. But it must be remembered here, and 

16 Veytia, Hist, antig., torn. i. cap. 13. 

J 7 Humboldt, Vues des Cordilleres, p. 32. 

18 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 69. — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 63. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Ixtlilxochitl, 
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 84. 

Vol. II. 4 


always, that his history is to be collected solely from 
Spanish writers and such of the natives as flourished 
after the Conquest, when the country had become a 
colony of Spain. Not an Aztec record of the primitive 
age survives, in a form capable of interpretation. 19 It is 
the hard fate of this unfortunate monarch to be wholly 
indebted for his portraiture to the pencil of his enemies. 
More than a fortnight had elapsed since the entrance 
of the Spaniards into Cholula, and Cortes now resolved 
without loss of time to resume his march towards the 
capital. His rigorous reprisals had so far intimidated 
the Cholulans that he felt assured he should no longer 
leave an active enemy in his rear, to annoy him in case 
of retreat. He had the satisfaction, before his depart- 
ure, to heal the feud — in outward appearance, at least 
— that had so long subsisted between the Holy City and 
Tlascala, and which, under the revolution which so soon 
changed the destinies of the country, never revived. 

'9 The language of the text may appear somewhat too unqualified, 
considering that three Aztec codices exist with interpretations. (See 
ante, vol. i. pp. 105-108.) But they contain very few and general 
allusions to Montezuma, and these strained through commentaries of 
Spanish monks, oftentimes manifestly irreconcilable with the genuine 
Aztec notions. Even such writers as Ixtlilxochitl and Camargo, from 
whom, considering their Indian descent, we might expect more inde- 
pendence, seem less solicitous to show this, than their loyalty to the 
new faith and country of their adoption. Perhaps the most honest 
Aztec record of the period is to be obtained from the volumes, the 
twelfth book particularly, of Father Sahagun, embodying the tradi- 
tions of the natives soon after the Conquest. This portion of his 
great work was rewritten by its author, and considerable changes 
were made in it, at a later period of his life. Yet it may be doubted 
if the reformed version reflects the traditions of the country as faith- 
fully as the original, which is still in manuscript, and which I have 
chiefly followed. 


It was with some disquietude that he now received 
an application from his Cempoallan allies to be allowed 
to withdraw from the expedition and return to their 
own homes. They had incurred too deeply the resent- 
ment of the Aztec emperor, by their insults to his col- 
lectors, and by their co-operation with the Spaniards, 
to care to trust themselves in his capital. It was in 
vain Cortes endeavored to reassure them by promises 
of his protection. Their habitual distrust and dread 
of "the great Montezuma" were not to be overcome. 
The general learned their determination with regret, 
for they had been of infinite service to the cause by 
their stanch fidelity and courage. All this made it the 
more difficult for him to resist their reasonable demand. 
Liberally recompensing their services, therefore, from 
the rich wardrobe and treasures of the emperor, he 
took leave of his faithful followers, before his own 
departure from Cholula. He availed himself of their 
return to send letters to Juan de Escalante, his lieu- 
tenant at Vera Cruz, acquainting him with the suc- 
cessful progress of the expedition. He enjoined on 
that officer to strengthen the fortifications of the place, 
so as the better to resist any hostile interference from 
Cuba, — an event for which Cortes was ever on the 
watch, — and to keep down revolt among the natives. 
He especially commended the Totonacs to his protec- 
tion, as allies whose fidelity to the Spaniards exposed 
them, in no slight degree, to the vengeance of the 
Aztecs. 20 

80 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 84, 85. — Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 67. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 60. — Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. 




Everything being now restored to quiet in Cholula, 
the allied army of Spaniards and Tlascalans set forward 
in high spirits, and resumed the march on Mexico. 
The road lay through the beautiful savannas and luxu- 
riant plantations that spread out for several leagues in 
every direction. On the march, they were met occa- 
sionally by embassies from the neighboring places, 
anxious to claim the protection of the white men, and 
to propitiate them by gifts, especially of gold, their 
appetite for which was generally known throughout 
the country. 

Some of these places were allies of the Tlascalans, 
and all showed much discontent with the oppressive 
rule of Montezuma. The natives cautioned the Span- 
iards against putting themselves in his power by enter- 
ing his capital ; and they stated, as evidence of his 
hostile disposition, that he had caused the direct road 
to it to be blocked up, that the strangers might be 
compelled to choose another, which, from its narrow 
passes and strong positions, would enable him to take 
them at great disadvantage. 



The information was not lost on Cortes, who kept a 
strict eye on the movements of the Mexican envoys, 
and redoubled his own precautions against surprise. 1 
Cheerful and active, he was ever where his presence 
was needed, sometimes in the van, at others in the rear, 
encouraging the weak, stimulating the sluggish, and 
striving to kindle in the breasts of others the same 
courageous spirit which glowed in his own. At night 
he never omitted to go the rounds, to see that every 
man was at his post. On one occasion his vigilance 
had wellnigh proved fatal to him. He approached so 
near a sentinel that the man, unable to distinguish his 
person in the dark, levelled his cross-bow at him, when 
fortunately an exclamation of the general, who gave 
the watchword of the night, arrested a movement 
which might else have brought the campaign to a close 
and given a respite for some time longer to the empire 
of Montezuma. 

The army came at length to the place mentioned by 
the friendly Indians, where the road forked, and one 
arm of it was found, as they had foretold, obstructed 
with large trunks of trees, and huge stones which had 
been strewn across it. Cortes inquired the meaning 
of this from the Mexican ambassadors. They said it 
was done by the emperor's orders, to prevent their 
taking a route which, after some distance, they would 
find nearly impracticable for the cavalry. They ac- 
knowledged, however, that it was the most direct road ; 
and Cortes, declaring that this was enough to decide 

1 " We walked," says Diaz, in the homely but expressive Spanish 
proverb, " with our beards over our shoulders" — la barba sobre el 
omiro. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 86. 




him in favor of it, as the Spaniards made no account of 
obstacles, commanded the rubbish to be cleared away. 
Some of the timber might still be seen by the road- 
side, as Bernal Diaz tells us, many years after. The 
event left little doubt in the general's mind of the 
meditated treachery of the Mexicans. But he was too 
politic to betray his suspicions. 2 

They were now leaving the pleasant champaign 
country, as the road wound up the bold sierra which 
separates the great plateaus of Mexico and Puebla. 
The air, as they ascended, became keen and piercing ; 
and the blasts, sweeping down the frozen sides of the 
mountains, made the soldiers shiver in their thick 
harness of cotton, and benumbed the limbs of both 
men and horses. 

They were passing between two of the highest moun- 
tains on the North American continent ; Popocatepetl, 
"the hill that smokes," and Iztaccihuatl, or "white 
woman, ' ' 3 — a name suggested, doubtless, by the bright 
robe of snow spread over its broad and broken surface. 
A puerile superstition of the Indians regarded these 
celebrated mountains as gods, and Iztaccihuatl as the 
wife of her more formidable neighbor. 4 A tradition 
of a higher character described the northern volcano 
as the abode of the departed spirits of wicked rulers, 
whose fiery agonies in their prison-house caused the 

a Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquisia, cap. 86. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 70. — Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 41. 

3 " Llamaban al volcan Popocatepetl, y a la sierra nevada Iztac- 
cihuatl, que quiere decir la sierra que humea, y la blanca muger." 
Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 

4 " La Sierra nevada y el volcan los tenian por Dioses ; y que el 
volcan y la Sierra nevada eran marido y muger." Ibid., MS. 



fearful bellowings and convulsions in times of eruption. 
It was the classic fable of antiquity. 3 These super- 
stitious legends had invested the mountain with a 
mysterious horror, that made the natives shrink from 
attempting its ascent, which, indeed, was from natural 
causes a work of incredible difficulty. 

The great volcan, 6 as Popocatepetl was called, rose 
to the enormous height of 17,852 feet above the level 
of the sea; more than 2000 feet above the "monarch 
of mountains," — the highest elevation in Europe. 7 
During the present century it has rarely given evidence 
of its volcanic origin, and "the hill that smokes" has 
almost forfeited its claim to the appellation. But at 
the time of the Conquest it was frequently in a state 
of activity, and raged with uncommon fury while the 
Spaniards were at Tlascala ; an evil omen, it was 
thought, for the natives of Anahuac. Its head, gathered 
into a regular cone by the deposit of successive erup- 
tions, wore the usual form of volcanic mountains when 

5 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 62. 

"iEtna Giganteos nunquam tacitura triumphos, 
Enceladi bustum, qui saucia terga revinctus 
Spirat inexhaustum flagranti pectore sulphur." 

Claudian, De Rapt. Pros., lib. i, v. 152. 

6 The old Spaniards called any lofty mountain by that name, though 
never having given signs of combustion. Thus, Chimborazo was 
called a volcan de nieve, or "snow volcano" (Humboldt, Essai poli- 
tique, torn. i. p. 162) ; and that enterprising traveller, Stephens, notices 
the volcan de agiui, " water volcano," in the neighborhood of Antigua 
Guatemala. Incidents of Travel in Chiapas, Central America, and 
Yucatan (New York, 1841), vol. i. chap. 13. 

7 Mont Blanc, according to M. de Saussure, is 15,670 feet high. 
For the estimate of Popocatepetl, see an elaborate communication in 
the " Revista Mexicana," torn. ii. No. 4. 


not disturbed by the falling in of the crater. Soaring 
towards the skies, with its silver sheet of everlasting 
snow, it was seen far and wide over the broad plains of 
Mexico and Puebla, the first object which the morning 
sun greeted in his rising, the last where his evening 
rays were seen to linger, shedding a glorious effulgence 
over its head, that contrasted strikingly with the 
ruinous waste of sand and lava immediately below, 
and the deep fringe of funereal pines that shrouded 
its base. 

The mysterious terrors which hung over the spot, 
and the wild love of adventure, made some of the 
Spanish cavaliers desirous to attempt the ascent, which 
the natives declared no man could accomplish and live. 
Cortes encouraged them in the enterprise, willing to 
show the Indians that no achievement was above the 
dauntless daring of his followers. One of his cap- 
tains, accordingly, Diego Ordaz, with nine Spaniards, 
and several Tlascalans, encouraged by their example, 
undertook the ascent. It was attended with more 
difficulty than had been anticipated. 

The lower region was clothed with a dense forest, 
so thickly matted that in some places it was scarcely 
possible to penetrate it. It grew thinner, however, as 
they advanced, dwindling by degrees into a straggling, 
stunted vegetation, till, at the height of somewhat more 
than thirteen thousand feet, it faded away altogether. 
The Indians who had held on thus far, intimidated by 
the strange subterraneous sounds of the volcano, even 
then in a state of combustion, now left them. The 
track opened on a black surface of glazed volcanic sand 
and of lava, the broken fragments of which, arrested 



in its boiling progress in a thousand fantastic forms, 
opposed continual impediments to their advance. 
Amidst these, one huge rock, the Pico del Fraile, a 
conspicuous object from below, rose to the perpen- 
dicular height of a hundred and fifty feet, compelling 
them to take a wide circuit. They soon came to the 
limits of perpetual snow, where new difficulties pre- 
sented themselves, as the treacherous ice gave an im- 
perfect footing, and a false step might precipitate them 
into the frozen chasms that yawned around. To in- 
crease their distress, respiration in these aerial regions 
became so difficult that every effort was attended with 
sharp pains in the head and limbs. Still they pressed 
on, till, drawing nearer the crater, such volumes of 
smoke, sparks, and cinders were belched forth from its 
burning entrails, and driven down the sides of the 
mountain, as nearly suffocated and blinded them. It 
was too much even for their hardy frames to endure, 
and, however reluctantly, they were compelled to 
abandon the attempt on the eve of its completion. 
They brought back some huge icicles, — a curious sight 
in these tropical regions, — as a trophy of their achieve- 
ment, which, however imperfect, was sufficient to strike 
the minds of the natives with wonder, by showing that 
with the Spaniards the most appalling and mysterious 
perils were only as pastimes. The undertaking was 
eminently characteristic of the bold spirit of the cava- 
lier of that day, who, not content with the dangers that 
lay in his path, seemed to court them from the mere 
Quixotic love of adventure. A report of the affair 
was transmitted to the emperor Charles the Fifth, 
and the family of Ordaz was allowed to commemorate 


the exploit by assuming a burning mountain on their 
escutcheon. 8 

The general was not satisfied with the result. Two 
years after, he sent up another party, under Francisco 
Montano, a cavalier of determined resolution. The 
object was to obtain sulphur to assist in making gunpow- 
der for the army. The mountain was quiet at this time, 
and the expedition was attended with better success. 
The Spaniards, five in number, climbed to the very edge 
of the crater, which presented an irregular ellipse at its 
mouth, more than a league in circumference. Its depth 
might be from eight hundred to a thousand feet. A 
lurid flame burned gloomily at the bottom, sending up 
a sulphureous steam, which, cooling as it rose, was 
precipitated on the sides of the cavity. The party cast 
lots, and it fell on Montano himself, to descend in a 
basket into this hideous abyss, into which he was low- 
ered by his companions to the depth of four hundred 
feet ! This was repeated several times, till the adven- 
turous cavalier had collected a sufficient quantity of 
sulphur for the wants of the army. 9 This doughty 
enterprise excited general admiration at the time. 
Cortes concludes his report of it to the emperor with 

8 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 70. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 
78. — The latter writer speaks of the ascent as made when the army 
lay at Tlascala, and of the attempt as perfectly successful. The gen- 
eral's letter, written soon after the event, with no motive for misstate- 
ment, is the better authority. See, also, Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 
2, lib. 6, cap. 18. — Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. 
p. 308. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 62. 

9 [Montano's family remained in Mexico after the Conquest, and his 
daughter received a pension from the government. Alaman, Diserta- 
ciones historicas, torn. i. apend. 2.] 



the judicious reflection that it would be less incon- 
venient, on the whole, to import their powder from 
Spain. 10 

But it is time to return from our digression, which 
may perhaps be excused, as illustrating, in a remark- 
able manner, the chimerical spirit of enterprise — not 
inferior to that in his own romances of chivalry — which 
glowed in the breast of the Spanish cavalier in the 
sixteenth century. 

The army held on its march through the intricate 
gorges of the sierra. The route was nearly the same 
as that pursued at the present day by the courier from 
the capital to Puebla, by the way of Mecameca." It 
was not that usually taken by travellers from Vera 

10 Rel. Ter. y Quarta de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 318, 380. — 
Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 3, lib. 3, cap. 1. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 41. — M. de Humboldt doubts the fact of 
Montano's descent into the crater, thinking it more probable that he 
obtained the sulphur through some lateral crevice in the mountain. 
(Essai politique, torn. i. p. 164.)"* No attempt — at least, no successful 
one — was made to gain the summit of Popocatepetl, since this of Mon- 
tano, till the present century. In 1827 it was reached in two expe- 
ditions, and again in 1833 and 1834. A very full account of the last, 
containing many interesting details and scientific observations, was 
written by Federico de Gerolt, one of the party, and published in the 
periodical already referred to. (Revista Mexicana, torn. i.pp. 461-482.) 
The party from the topmost peak, which commanded a full view 
of the less elevated Iztaccihuatl, saw no vestige of a crater in that 
mountain, contrary to the opinion usually received. 

11 Humboldt, Essai politique, torn iv. p. 17. 

* [There would seem to have been no grounds for the doubt ex- 
pressed by Humboldt, as the sulphur is now nearly exhausted, having 
been regularly collected by Indian laborers, lowered into the crater by 
means of a rope of hide attached to a windlass. Tylor, Anahuac, p. 
269. — Ed.] 


Cruz, who follow the more circuitous road round the 
northern base of Iztaccihuatl, as less fatiguing than 
the other, though inferior in picturesque scenery and 
romantic points of view. The icy winds, that now 
swept down the sides of the mountains, brought with 
them a tempest of arrowy sleet and snow, from which 
the Christians suffered even more than the Tlascalans, 
reared from infancy among the wild solitudes of their 
own native hills. As night came on, their sufferings 
would have been intolerable, but they luckily found a 
shelter in the commodious stone buildings which the 
Mexican government had placed at stated intervals 
along the roads for the accommodation of the travel- 
ler and their own couriers. It little dreamed it was 
providing a protection for its enemies. 

The troops, refreshed by a night's rest, succeeded, 
early on the following day, in gaining the crest of the 
sierra of Ahualco, which stretches like a curtain between 
the two great mountains on the north and south. Their 
progress was now comparatively easy, and they marched 
forward with a buoyant step, as they felt they were 
treading the soil of Montezuma. 

They had not advanced far, when, turning an angle 
of the sierra, they suddenly came on a view which more 
than compensated the toils of the preceding day. It 
was that of the Valley of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, as 
more commonly called by the natives ; which, with its 
picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and culti- 
vated plains, its shining cities and shadowy hills, was 
spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before 
them. In the highly rarefied atmosphere of these upper 
regions, even remote objects have a brilliancy of color- 



ing and a distinctness of outline which seem to anni- 
hilate distance." Stretching far away at their feet, 
were seen noble forests of oak, sycamore, and cedar, 
and beyond, yellow fields of maize and the towering 
maguey, intermingled with orchards and blooming 
gardens ; for flowers, in such demand for their reli- 
gious festivals, were even more abundant in this popu- 
lous valley than in other parts of Anahuac. In the 
centre of the great basin were beheld the lakes, occu- 
pying then a much larger portion of its surface than at 
present ; their borders thickly studded with towns and 
hamlets, and, in the midst, — like some Indian empress 
with her coronal of pearls, — the fair city of Mexico, 
with her white towers and pyramidal temples, reposing, 
as it were, on the bosom of the waters, — the far-famed 
" Venice of the Aztecs." High over all rose the royal 
hill of Chapoltepec, the residence of the Mexican 
monarchs, crowned with the same grove of gigantic 
cypresses which at this day fling their broad shadows 
over the land. In the distance beyond the blue waters 
of the lake, and nearly screened by intervening foliage, 
was seen a shining speck, the rival capital of Tezcuco, 
and, still farther on, the dark belt of porphyry, gir- 
dling the Valley around, like a rich setting which Nature 
had devised for the fairest of her jewels. 

Such was the beautiful vision which broke on the 
eyes of the Conquerors. And even now, when so sad 
a change has come over the scene ; when the stately 
forests have been laid low, and the soil, unsheltered 

u The lake of Tezcuco, on which stood the capital of Mexico, is 
2277 metres — nearly 7500 feet — above the sea. Humboldt, Essai 
politique, torn. ii. p. 45. 

Vol. II. — c 5 



from the fierce radiance of a tropical sun, is in many 
places abandoned to sterility ; when the waters have 
retired, leaving a broad and ghastly margin white with 
the incrustation of salts, while the cities and hamlets 
on their borders have mouldered into ruins ; — even 
now that desolation broods over the landscape, so in- 
destructible are the lines of beauty which Nature has 
traced on its features, that no traveller, however cold, 
can gaze on them with any other emotions than those 
of astonishment and rapture. 13 

What, then, must have been the emotions of the 
Spaniards, when, after working their toilsome way into 
the upper air, the cloudy tabernacle parted before their 
eyes, and they beheld these fair scenes in all their 
pristine magnificence and beauty ! It was like the 
spectacle which greeted the eyes of Moses from the 
summit of Pisgah, and, in the warm glow of their 
feelings, they cried out, "It is the promised land !" 14 

But these feelings of admiration were soon followed 
by others of a very different complexion, as they saw 
in all this the evidences of a civilization and power far 
superior to anything they had yet encountered. The 
more timid, disheartened by the prospect, shrunk from 
a contest so unequal, and demanded, as they had done on 
some former occasions, to be led back again to Vera Cruz. 

'3 It is unnecessary to refer to the pages of modern travellers, who, 
however they may differ in taste, talent, or feeling, all concur in the 
impressions produced on them by the sight of this beautiful valley. 

*4 Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 41. — It may call to the 
reader's mind the memorable view of the fair plains of Italy which 
Hannibal displayed to his hungry barbarians after a similar march 
through the wild passes of the Alps, as reported by the prince of 
historic painters. Livy, Hist., lib. 21, cap. 35. 


5 1 

Such was not the effect produced on the sanguine spirit 
of the general. His avarice was sharpened by the dis- 
play of the dazzling spoil at his feet ; and, if he felt a 
natural anxiety at the formidable odds, his confidence 
was renewed, as he gazed on the lines of his veterans, 
whose weather-beaten visages and battered armor told 
of battles won and difficulties surmounted, while his 
bold barbarians, with appetites whetted by the view 
of their enemies' country, seemed like eagles on the 
mountains, ready to pounce upon their prey. By 
argument, entreaty, and menace, he endeavored to re- 
store the faltering courage of the soldiers, urging them 
not to think of retreat, now that they had reached the 
goal for which they had panted, and the golden gates 
were opened to receive them. In these efforts he was 
well seconded by the brave cavaliers, who held honor 
as dear to them as fortune ; until the dullest spirits 
caught somewhat of the enthusiasm of their leaders, 
and the general had the satisfaction to see his hesitating 
columns, with their usual buoyant step, once more on 
their march down the slopes of the sierra. 13 

With every step of their progress, the woods became 
thinner ; patches of cultivated land more frequent ; 
and hamlets were seen in the green and sheltered 
nooks, the inhabitants of which, coming out to meet 
them, gave the troops a kind reception. Everywhere 
they heard complaints of Montezuma, especially of the 
unfeeling manner in which he carried off their young 
men to recruit his armies, and their maidens for his 

*5 Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., ubi supra. — Herrera, Hist, general, 
dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 3. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 64. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. 



harem. These symptoms of discontent were noticed 
with satisfaction by Cortes, who saw that Montezuma's 
"mountain-throne," as it was called, was indeed seated 
on a volcano, with the elements of combustion so active 
within that it seemed as if any hour might witness an 
explosion. He encouraged the disaffected natives to 
rely on his protection, as he had come to redress their 
wrongs. He took advantage, moreover, of their favor- 
able dispositions, to scatter among them such gleams 
of spiritual light as time and the preaching of Father 
Olmedo could afford. 

He advanced by easy stages, somewhat retarded by 
the crowd of curious inhabitants gathered on the high- 
ways to see the strangers, and halting at every spot of 
interest or importance. On the road, he was met by 
another embassy from the capital. It consisted of 
several Aztec lords, freighted, as usual, with a rich 
largess of gold, and robes of delicate furs and feathers. 
The message of the emperor was couched in the same 
deprecatory terms as before. He even condescended 
to bribe the return of the Spaniards, by promising, in 
that event, four loads of gold to the general, and one 
to each of the captains, 16 with a yearly tribute to their 
sovereign. So effectually had the lofty and naturally 
courageous spirit of the barbarian monarch been sub- 
dued by the influence of superstition ! 

But the man whom the hostile array of armies could 
not daunt was not to be turned from his purpose by a 
woman's prayers. He received the embassy with his 
usual courtesy, declaring, as before, that he could not 

16 A load for a Mexican tcunane was about fifty pounds, or eight 
hundred ounces. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 69, nota. 


answer it to his own sovereign if he were now to 
return without visiting the emperor in his capital. It 
would be much easier to arrange matters by a personal 
interview than by distant negotiation. The Spaniards 
came in the spirit of peace. Montezuma would so find 
it; but, should their presence prove burdensome to him, 
it would be easy for them to relieve him of it. 17 

The Aztec monarch, meanwhile, was a prey to the 
most dismal apprehensions. It was intended that the 
embassy above noticed should reach the Spaniards before 
they crossed the mountains. When he learned that 
this was accomplished, and that the dread strangers 
were on their march across the Valley, the very thresh- 
old of his capital, the last spark of hope died away in 
his bosom. Like one who suddenly finds himself on 
the brink of some dark and yawning gulf, he was too 
much bewildered to be able to rally his thoughts, or 
even to comprehend his situation. He was the victim 
of an absolute destiny, against which no foresight or 
precautions could have availed. It was as if the strange 
beings who had thus invaded his shores had dropped 
from some distant planet, so different were they from 
all he had ever seen, in appearance and manners; so 
superior — though a mere handful in numbers — to the 
banded nations of Anahuac in strength and science 
and all the fearful accompaniments of war ! They were 
now in the Valley. The huge mountain screen, which 
nature had so kindly drawn around it for its defence, 

J 7 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espaiia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 12. — Rel, 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 73. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2. 
lib. 7, cap. 3. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 64. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind, 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 87. 




had been overleaped. The golden visions of security 
and repose in which he had so long indulged, the lordly 
sway descended from his ancestors, his broad imperial 
domain, were all to pass away. It seemed like some 
terrible dream, — from which he was now, alas ! to 
awake to a still more terrible reality. 

In a paroxysm of despair, he shut himself up in his 
palace, refused food, and sought relief in prayer and in 
sacrifice. But the oracles were dumb. He then adopted 
the more sensible expedient of calling a council of his 
principal and oldest nobles. Here was the same divi- 
sion of opinion which had before prevailed. Cacama, 
the young king of Tezcuco, his nephew, counselled 
him to receive the Spaniards courteously, as ambas- 
sadors, so styled by themselves, of a foreign prince. 
Cuitlahua, Montezuma's more warlike brother, urged 
him to muster his forces on the instant, and drive back 
the invaders from his capital or die in its defence. 
But the monarch found it difficult to rally his spirits 
for this final struggle. With downcast eye and dejected 
mien, he exclaimed, "Of what avail is resistance, when 
the gods have declared themselves against us ? l3 Yet 
I mourn most for the old and infirm, the women and 
children, too feeble to fight or to fly. For myself and 
the brave men around me, we must bare our breasts to 
the storm, and meet it as we may ! ' ' Such are the 
sorrowful and sympathetic tones in which the Aztec 
emperor is said to have uttered the bitterness of his 
grief. He would have acted a more glorious part had 

18 This was not the sentiment of the Roman hero : 

" Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni I" 

Lucan, lib. 1, v. 128. 


he put his capital in a posture of defence, and pre- 
pared, like the last of the Pala^ologi, to bury himself 
under its ruins. 19 

He straightway prepared to send a last embassy to 
the Spaniards, with his nephew, the lord of Tezcuco, at 
its head, to welcome them to Mexico. 

The Christian army, meanwhile, had advanced as far 
as Amaquemecan, a well-built town of several thousand 
inhabitants. They were kindly received by the cacique, 
lodged in large, commodious, stone buildings, and at 
their departure presented, among other things, with 
gold to the amount of three thousand castellanos. m 
Having halted there a couple of days, they descended 
among flourishing plantations of maize and of maguey, 
the latter of which might be called the Aztec vine- 
yards, towards the lake of Chalco. Their first resting- 
place was Ajotzinco, a town of considerable size, with 
a great part of it then standing on piles in the water. 
It was the first specimen which the Spaniards had seen 
of this maritime architecture. The canals which inter- 
sected the city, instead of streets, presented an animated 
scene, from the number of barks which glided up and 
down freighted with provisions and other articles for 
the inhabitants. The Spaniards were particularly struck 
with the style and commodious structure oi the houses, 
built chiefly of stone, and with the general aspect of 
wealth and even elegance which prevailed there. 

*9 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 13. — Tor- 
quemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 44. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 63. 

30 " El sefior de esta provincia y pueblo me dio hasta quarenta 
esclavas, y tres mil castellanos ; y dos dias que alii estuve nos proveyo 
muy cumplidamente de todo lo necesario para nuestra comida." Rel. 
Reg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 74. 


Though received with the greatest show of hospi- 
tality, Cortes found some occasion for distrust in the 
eagerness manifested by the people to see and approach 
the Spaniards. 21 Not content with gazing at them in 
the roads, some even made their way stealthily into 
their quarters, and fifteen or twenty unhappy Indians 
were shot down by the sentinels as spies. Yet there 
appears, as well as we can judge at this distance of 
time, to have been no real ground for such suspicion. 
The undisguised jealousy of the court, and the cau- 
tions he had received from his allies, while they very 
properly put the general on his guard, seem to have 
given an unnatural acuteness, at least in the present 
instance, to his perceptions of danger. 22 

21 " De todas partes era infinita la gente que de un cabo 6 de otro 
concurrian a mirar A los Espanoles, £ maravillabanse mucho de los 
ver. Tenian grande espacio e atencion en mirar los caballos ; decian, 
' Estos son Teules,' que quiere decir Demonios." Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 45. 

22 Cortes tells the affair coolly enough to the emperor. " And that 
night I kept such guard that of the spies — as well those who came 
across the water in canoes as those who descended from the sierra to 
watch for an opportunity of accomplishing their design — fifteen or 
twenty were discovered in the morning that had been killed by our 
men ; so that few returned with the information they had come to 
get." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 74.* 

* [Cortes cannot be blamed for adopting such precautions as any good 
general would have thought it culpable to neglect; while his repeated 
warnings to the natives not to approach the camp after sunset show 
his anxiety to impress them with a sense of the danger. " Sabed," he 
said to the chiefs, " que estos que conmigo vienen no duermen de 
noche, e si duermen es un poco cuando es de dia ; e de noche est&n 
con sus armas, e cualquiera que ven que anda en pie 6 entra do ellos 
estan, luego lo matan ; eyono basto d lo resistir; por tanto, haceldo 
asf saber d. toda vuestra gente, 6 decildes que despues de puesto el 


Early on the following morning, as the army was 
preparing to leave the place, a courier came, requesting 
the general to postpone his departure till after the 
arrival of the king of Tezcuco, who was advancing to 
meet him. It was not long before he appeared, borne 
in a palanquin or litter, richly decorated with plates 
of gold and precious stones, having pillars curiously 
wrought, supporting a canopy of green plumes, a favor- 
ite color with the Aztec princes. He was accompanied 
by a numerous suite of nobles and inferior attendants. 
As he came into the presence of Cortes, the lord of 
Tezcuco descended from his palanquin, and the obse- 
quious officers swept the ground before him as he ad- 
vanced. He appeared to be a young man of about 
twenty-five years of age, with a comely presence, erect 
and stately in his deportment. He made the Mexican 
salutation usually addressed to persons of high rank, 
touching the earth with his right hand, and raising it 
to his head. Cortes embraced him as he rose, when 
the young prince informed him that he came as the 
representative of Montezuma, to bid the Spaniards wel- 
come to his capital. He then presented the general 
with three pearls of uncommon size and lustre. Cortes, 
in return, threw over Cacama's neck a chain of cut 
glass, which, where glass was as rare as diamonds, 
might be admitted to have a value as real as the latter. 
After this interchange of courtesies, and the most 
friendly and respectful assurances on the part of Cortes, 
the Indian prince withdrew, leaving the Spaniards 

sol ninguna venga do estamos, porque moi-ira", e & mi me pesari, de los 
que murieren." Relacion hecha por el Sefior Andres de Tapia sobre 
la Conquista de Mexico. — Ed.] 



strongly impressed with the superiority of his state 
and bearing over anything they had hitherto seen in 
the country." 3 

Resuming its march, the army kept along the south- 
ern borders of the lake of Chalco, overshadowed, at 
that time, by noble woods, and by orchards glowing 
with autumnal fruits, of unknown names, but rich and 
tempting hues. More frequently it passed through 
cultivated fields waving with the yellow harvest, and 
irrigated by canals introduced from the neighboring 
lake ; the whole showing a careful and economical 
husbandry, essential to the maintenance of a crowded 

Leaving the main land, the Spaniards came on the 
great dike or causeway, which stretches some four 
or five miles in length and divides lake Chalco from 
Xochicalco on the west. It was a lance in breadth in 
the narrowest part, and in some places wide enough for 
eight horsemen to ride abreast. It was a solid structure 
of stone and lime, running directly through the lake, 
and struck the Spaniards as one of the most remarkable 
works which they had seen in the country. 

As they passed along, they beheld the gay spectacle 
of multitudes of Indians darting up and down in their 
light pirogues, eager to catch a glimpse of the strangers, 
or bearing the products of the country to the neigh- 
boring cities. They were amazed, also, by the sight 

*3 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 75. — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 64. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — " We esteemed it a great matter, and 
said amongst ourselves, If this cacique appeared in such state, what 
must be that displayed by the great Montezuma?" Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 87. 



of the chinampas , or floating gardens, — those wander- 
ing islands of verdure, to which we shall have occasion 
to return hereafter, — teeming with flowers and vegeta- 
bles, and moving like rafts over the waters. All round 
the margin, and occasionally far in the lake, they 
beheld little towns and villages, which, half concealed 
by the foliage, and gathered in white clusters round 
the shore, looked in the distance like companies of 
wild swans riding quietly on the waves. A scene so 
new and wonderful filled their rude hearts with amaze- 
ment. It seemed like enchantment ; and they could 
find nothing to compare it with but the magical pic- 
tures in the "Amadis de Gaula." 24 Few pictures, 
indeed, in that or any other legend of chivalry, could 
surpass the realities of their own experience. The life 
of the adventurer in the New World was romance put 
into action. What wonder, then, if the Spaniard of 
that day, feeding his imagination with dreams of en- 
chantment at home and with its realities abroad, should 
have displayed a Quixotic enthusiasm, — a romantic 
exaltation of character, not to be comprehended by 
the colder spirits of other lands ! 

Midway across the lake the army halted at the town 
of Cuitlahuac, a place of moderate size, but distin- 
guished by the beauty of the buildings, — the most 
beautiful, according to Cortes, that he , had yet seen in 

"4 " Nos quedamos admirados," exclaims Diaz, with simple wonder, 
" y deziamos que parecia & las casas de encantamento, que cuentan en 
el libro de Amadis !" Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 87. An edition of 
this celebrated romance in its Castilian dress had appeared before this 
time, as the prologue to the second edition of 1521 speaks of a former 
one in the reign of the " Catholic Sovereigns." See Cervantes, Don 
Quixote, ed. Pellicer (Madrid, 1797), torn, i., Discurso prelim. 


the country. 25 After taking some refreshment at this 
place, they continued their march along the dike. 
Though broader in this northern section, the troops 
found themselves much embarrassed by the throng of 
Indians, who, not content with gazing on them from 
the boats, climbed up the causeway and lined the 
sides of the road. The general, afraid that his ranks 
might be disordered, and that too great familiarity 
might diminish a salutary awe in the natives, was 
obliged to resort not merely to command, but menace, 
to clear a passage. He now found, as he advanced, 
a considerable change in the feelings shown towards 
the government. He heard only of the pomp and 
magnificence, nothing of the oppressions, of Monte- 
zuma. Contrary to the usual fact, it seemed that 
the respect for the court was greatest in its immediate 

From the causeway, the army descended on that 
narrow point of land which divides the waters of the 
Chalco from the Tezcucan lake, but which in those 
days was overflowed for many a mile now laid bare. 26 

2 5 "Una ciudad, la mas hermosa, aunque pequena, que hasta en- 
tonces habiamos visto, assi de muy bien obradas Casas, y Torres, 
como de la buena orden, que en el fundamento de ella habia por 
ser armada toda sobre Agua." (Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 
p. 76.) The Spaniards gave this aquatic city the name of Vene- 
zuela, or Little Venice. Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 2, 
cap. 4. 

26 M. de Humboldt has dotted the conjectural limits of the ancient 
lake in his admirable chart of the Mexican Valley. (Atlas geogra- 
phique et physique de la Nouvelle-Espagne (Paris, 1811), carte 3.) 
Notwithstanding his great care, it is not easy always to reconcile his 
topography with the itineraries of the Conquerors, so much has the 
face of the country been changed by natural and artificial causes. It 


Traversing this peninsula, they entered the royal res- 
idence of Iztapalapan, a place containing twelve or 
fifteen thousand houses, according to Cortes. 27 It was 
governed by Cuitlahua, the emperor's brother, who, to 
do greater honor to the general, had invited the lords 
of some neighboring cities, of the royal house of 
Mexico, like himself, to be present at the interview. 
This was conducted with much ceremony, and, after 
the usual present of gold and delicate stuffs, 28 a colla- 
tion was served to the Spaniards in one of the great 
halls of the palace. The excellence of the architecture 
here, also, excited the admiration of the general, who 
does not hesitate, in the glow of his enthusiasm, to 
pronounce some of the buildings equal to the best in 
Spain. 29 They were of stone, and the spacious apart- 
ments had roofs of odorous cedar-wood, while the walls 
were tapestried with fine cotton stained with brilliant 

is still less possible to reconcile their narratives with the maps of Cla- 
vigero, Lopez, Robertson, and others, defying equally topography and 

=7 Several writers notice a visit of the Spaniards to Tezcuco on the 
way to the capital. (Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 42. — 
Solis, Conquista, lib. 3, cap. 9. — Hen-era, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, 
cap. 4. — Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 74.) This improb- 
able episode — which, it may be remarked, has led these authors into 
some geographical perplexities, not to say blunders — is altogether too 
remarkable to have been passed over in silence in the minute relation 
of Bernal Diaz, and that of Cortes, neither of whom alludes to it. 

=8 " E me dieron," says Cortes, "has.ta tres, 6 quatro mil Caste- 
llanos, y algunas Esclavas, y Ropa, e me hicieron muy buen acogimi- 
ento." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 76. 

=9 " Tiene el Sefior de ella unas Casas nuevas, que aun no estan 
acabadas, que son tan buenas como las niejores de Espafia, digo de 
grandes y bien labradas." Ibid., p. 77. 
Vol. II. 6 


But the pride of Iztapalapan, on which its lord had 
freely lavished his care and his revenues, was its cele- 
brated gardens. They covered an immense tract of 
land ; were laid out in regular squares, and the paths 
intersecting them were bordered with trellises, support- 
ing creepers and aromatic shrubs that loaded the air 
with their perfumes. The gardens were stocked with 
fruit-trees, imported from distant places, and with the 
gaudy family of flowers which belonged to the Mexican 
flora, scientifically arranged, and growing luxuriant in 
the equable temperature of the table-land. The natural 
dryness of the atmosphere was counteracted by means 
of aqueducts and canals that carried water into all parts 
of the grounds. 

In one quarter was an aviary, filled with numerous 
kinds of birds, remarkable in this region both for 
brilliancy of plumage and of song. The gardens were 
intersected by a canal communicating with the lake of 
Tezcuco, and of sufficient size for barges to enter from 
the latter. But the most elaborate piece of work was a 
huge reservoir of stone, filled to a considerable height 
with water well supplied with different sorts of fish. 
This basin was sixteen hundred paces in circumference, 
and was surrounded by a walk, made also of stone, 
wide enough for four persons to go abreast. The 
sides were curiously sculptured, and a flight of steps 
led to the water below, which fed the aqueducts above 
noticed, or, collected into fountains, diffused a per- 
petual moisture. 

Such are the accounts transmitted of these celebrated 
gardens, at a period when similar horticultural establish- 


merits were unknown in Europe ; 3 ° and we might well 
doubt their existence in this semi-civilized land, were 
it not a matter of such notoriety at the time and so ex- 
plicitly attested by the invaders. But a generation had 
scarcely passed after the Conquest, before a sad change 
came over these scenes so beautiful. The town itself 
was deserted, and the shore of the lake was strewed 
with the wreck of buildings which once were its orna- 
ment and its glory. The gardens shared the fate of 
the city. The retreating waters withdrew the means 
of nourishment, converting the flourishing plains into 
a foul and unsightly morass, the haunt of loathsome 
reptiles; and the water-fowl built her nest in what had 
once been the palaces of princes ! 3I 

In the city of Iztapalapan, Cortes took up his quarters 
for the night. We may imagine what a crowd of ideas 
must have pressed on the mind of the Conqueror, as, 
surrounded by these evidences of civilization, he pre- 
pared with his handful of followers to enter the capital 
of a monarch who, as he had abundant reason to know, 
regarded him with distrust and aversion. This capital 
was now but a few miles distant, distinctly visible from 
Iztapalapan. And as its long lines of glittering edifices, 
struck by the rays of the evening sun, trembled on the 
dark-blue waters of the lake, it looked like a thing of 
fairy creation, rather than the work of mortal hands. 

3° The earliest instance of a Garden of Plants in Europe is said to 
have been at Padua, in 1545. Carli, Lettres Americaines, torn. i. 
let. 21. 

3 1 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, urx supra. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, 
lib. 7, cap. 44. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 
13. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib 33, cap. 5. — Bernal Diaz 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 87. 


Into this city of enchantment Cortes prepared to make 
his entry on the following morning. 32 

32 " There Aztlan stood upon the farther shore ; 
Amid the shade of trees its dwellings rose, 
Their level roofs with turrets set around, 
And battlements all burnished white, which shone 
Like silver in the sunshine. I beheld 
The imperial city, her far-circling walls, 
Her garden groves and stately palaces, 
Her temples mountain size, her thousand rools ; 
And when I saw her might and majesty, 
My mind misgave me then." 

Southey's Madoc, Part 1, canto 6. 





With the first faint streak of dawn, the Spanish 
general was up, mustering his followers. They gath- 
ered, with beating hearts, under their respective banners, 
as the trumpet sent forth its spirit-stirring sounds across 
water and woodland, till they died away in distant 
echoes among the mountains. The sacred flames on 
the altars of numberless teocallis, dimly seen through 
the gray mists of morning, 1 indicated the site of the 
capital, till temple, tower, and palace were fully re- 
vealed in the glorious illumination which the sun, as 
he rose above the eastern barrier, poured over the beau- 
tiful Valley. It was the eighth of November, 1519, 
a conspicuous day in history, as that on which the 
Europeans first set foot in the capital of the Western 

1 [Alaman objects to my speaking of the " gray mists of morning" 
in connection with the Aztec capital. " In the beginning of Novem- 
ber," he says, " there is no such thing as a mist to be seen in the 
morning, or indeed in any part of the day, in the Valley of Mexico, 
where the weather is uncommonly bright and beautiful. The histo- 
rian," he adds, " has confounded the climate of Mexico with that of 
England or the United States." Conquista de Mejico (trad, de Vega), 
torn. i. p. 337.] 

6* ( 65 ) 


Cortes with his little body of horse formed a sort of 
advanced guard to the army. Then came the Spanish 
infantry, who in a summer's campaign had acquired the 
discipline and the weather-beaten aspect of veterans. 
The baggage occupied the centre ; and the rear was 
closed by the dark files 2 of Tlascalan warriors. The 
whole number must have fallen short of seven thousand ; 
of which less than four hundred were Spaniards. 3 

For a short distance, the army kept along the narrow 
tongue of land that divides the Tezcucan from the 
Chalcan waters, when it entered on the great dike, 
which, with the exception of an angle near the com- 
mencement, stretches in a perfectly straight line across 
the salt floods of Tezcuco to the gates of the capital. 
It was the same causeway, or rather the basis of that, 
which still forms the great southern avenue of Mexico. 4 

9 [A Spanish translator incorrectly renders the words " dark files" 
by indisciplinadas Jilas, " undisciplined files." Senor Alaman, correct- 
ing, in this instance at least, the translation instead of the original, 
objects to this language. We may talk, says the critic, of the different 
kind of discipline peculiar to the Tlascalans, but not of their want of 
discipline, a defect which can hardly be charged on the most warlike 
nation of Anahuac. Conquista de Mejico (trad, de Vega), torn. i. p. 


3 He took about 6ooo warriors from Tlascala ; and some few of the 
Cempoallan and other Indian allies continued with him. The Spanish 
force on leaving Vera Cruz amounted to about 400 foot and 15 horse. 
In the remonstrance of the disaffected soldiers, after the murderous 
Tlascalan combats, they speak of having lost fifty of their number 
since the beginning of the campaign. Ante, vol. i. p. 449. 

4 " La calzada d'Iztapalapan est fondee sur cette meme digue an- 
cienne, sur laquelle Cortez fit des prodiges de valeur dans ses rencon- 
tres avec les assieges." (Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 57.) 
[At present the road of Tlalplan, or St. Augustine of the Caves (San 
Augustin de las Cuevas). Conquista de Mejico (trad, de Vega), torn. 
i. p. 338.] 


The Spaniards had occasion more than ever to admire 
the mechanical science of the Aztecs, in the geometri- 
cal precision with which the work was executed, as well 
as the solidity of its construction. It was composed 
of huge stones well laid in cement, and wide enough, 
throughout its whole extent, for ten horsemen to ride 

They saw, as they passed along, several large towns, 
resting on piles, and reaching far into the water, — a 
kind of architecture which found great favor with the 
Aztecs, being in imitation of that of their metropolis. 5 
The busy population obtained a good subsistence from 
the manufacture of salt, which they extracted from the 
waters of the great lake. The duties on the traffic in 
this article were a considerable source of revenue to 
the crown. 

Everywhere the Conquerors beheld the evidence of 
a crowded and thriving population, exceeding all they 
had yet seen. The temples and principal buildings of 
the cities were covered with a hard white stucco, which 
glistened like enamel in the level beams of the morn- 
ing. The margin of the great basin was more thickly 
gemmed than that of Chalco with towns and hamlets. 6 
The water was darkened by swarms of canoes filled 

s Among these towns were several containing from three to five or 
six thousand dwellings, according to Cortes, whose barbarous orthog- 
raphy in proper names will not easily be recognized by Mexican or 
Spaniard. Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 78. 

6 Father Toribio Benavente does not stint his panegyric in speaking 
of the neighborhood of the capital, which he saw in its glory. " Creo, 
que en toda nuestra Europa hay pocas ciudades que tengan tal asiento 
y tal comarca, con tantos pueblos a. la redonda de si y tan bien asen- 
tados." Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. 


with Indians, 7 who clambered up the sides of the 
causeway and gazed with curious astonishment on the 
strangers. And here, also, they beheld those fairy 
islands of flowers, overshadowed occasionally by trees 
of considerable size, rising and falling with the gentle 
undulation of the billows. At the distance of half a 
league from the capital, they encountered a solid work 
or curtain of stone, which traversed the dike. It was 
twelve feet high, was strengthened by towers at the ex- 
tremities, and in the centre was a battlemented gate- 
way, which opened a passage to the troops. It was 
called the Fort of Xoloc, and became memorable in 
after-times as the position occupied by Cortes in the 
famous siege of Mexico. 

Here they were met by several hundred Aztec chiefs, 
who came out to announce the approach of Montezuma 
and to welcome the Spaniards to his capital. They 
were dressed in the fanciful gala costume of the coun- 
try, with the maxtlatl, or cotton sash, around their 
loins, and a broad mantle of the same material, or 
of the brilliant feather-embroidery, flowing gracefully 
down their shoulders. On their necks and arms they 
displayed collars and bracelets of turquoise mosaic, 
with which delicate plumage was curiously mingled, 8 

7 It is not necessary, however, to adopt Herrera's account of 50,000 
canoes, which, he says, were constantly employed in supplying the 
capital with provisions! (Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 14.) The 
poet-chronicler Saavedra is more modest in his estimate : 

" Dos mil y mas canoas cada dia 
Bastecen el gran pueblo Mexicano 
De la mas y la menos nineria 
Que es necesario al alimento humano." 

El Peregrino Indiano, canto 11. 

8 " Usaban unos brazaletes de musaico, hechos de turquezas con 


while their ears, under-lips, and occasionally their 
noses, were garnished with pendants formed of precious 
stones, or crescents of fine gold. As each cacique 
made the usual formal salutation of the country sepa- 
rately to the general, the tedious ceremony delayed the 
march more than an hour. After this, the army expe- 
rienced no further interruption till it reached a bridge 
near the gates of the city. It was built of wood, since 
replaced by one of stone, and was thrown across an 
opening of the dike, which furnished an outlet to the 
waters when agitated by the winds or swollen by a 
sudden influx in the rainy season. It was a draw- 
bridge ; and the Spaniards, as they crossed it, felt how 
truly they were committing themselves to the mercy of 
Montezuma, who, by thus cutting off their communi- 
cations with the country, might hold them prisoners in 
his capital. 9 

In the midst of these unpleasant reflections, they 
beheld the glittering retinue of the emperor emerging 
from the great street which led then, as it still does, 
through the heart of the city. 10 Amidst a crowd of 

unas plumas ricas que salian de ellos, que eran mas altas que la 
cabeza, y bordadas con plumas ricas y con oro, y unas bandas de oro, 
que subian con las plumas." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, lib. 
8, cap. 9. 

9 Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 24. — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 65. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 88. — 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, pp. 78, 79. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85. 

10 Cardinal Lorenzana says, the street intended was, probably, that 
crossing the city from the Hospital of San Antonio. (Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, p. 79, nota.) This is confirmed by Sahagun. " Y asi en aquel 
trecho que estd desde la Iglesia de San Antonio (que ellos llaman 
Xuluco) que va por cave las casas de Alvarado, hdcia el Hospital de 



Indian nobles, preceded by three officers of state 
bearing golden wands," they saw the royal palanquin 
blazing with burnished gold. It was borne on the 
shoulders of nobles, and over it a canopy of gaudy 
feather-work, powdered with jewels and fringed with 
silver, was supported by four attendants of the same 
rank. They were bare-footed, and walked with a slow, 
measured pace, and with eyes bent on the ground. 
When the train had come within a convenient dis- 
tance, it halted, and Montezuma, descending from his 
litter, came forward, leaning on the arms of the lords 
of Tezcuco and Iztapalapan, his nephew and brother, 
both of whom, as we have seen, had already been 
made known to the Spaniards. As the monarch ad- 
vanced under the canopy, the obsequious attendants 
strewed the ground with cotton tapestry, that his im- 
perial feet might not be contaminated by the rude soil. 
His subjects of high and low degree, who lined the 
sides of the causeway, bent forward with their eyes 
fastened on the ground as he passed, and some of the 
humbler class prostrated themselves before him. 12 Such 

la Concepcion, salio Moctezuma a recibir de paz a D. Hernando 
Cortes." Hist de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 16. [The present 
Calle del Rastro, which continues, under different names, from the 
guard-house of San Antonio Abad to the Plaza. According to an 
early tradition, Montezuma and Cortes met in front of the spot where 
the Hospital of Jesus now stands, and the site for the building was 
chosen on that account. Conquista de Mejico (trad, de Vega), torn. 

i- P- 339-1 

" Carta del Lie. Zuazo, MS. 

12 " Toda la gente que estaba en las calles se le humiliaban y haciarj 
profunda reverencia y grande acatamiento sin levantar los ojos a le 
mirar, sino que todos estaban hasta que el era pasado, tan inclinados 
como frayles en Gloria Patri." Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., 
Parte 3, cap. 7. 



was the homage paid to the Indian despot, showing 
that the slavish forms of Oriental adulation were to 
be found among the rude inhabitants of the Western 

Montezuma wore the girdle and ample square cloak, 
tihnatli, of his nation. It was made of the finest 
cotton, with the embroidered ends gathered in a knot 
round his neck. His feet were defended by sandals 
having soles of gold, and the leathern thongs which 
bound them to his ankles were embossed with the same 
metal. Both the cloak and sandals were sprinkled 
with pearls and precious stones, among which the 
emerald and the chalchivitl — a green stone of higher 
estimation than any other among the Aztecs — were 
conspicuous. On his head he wore no other ornament 
than a panache of plumes of the royal green, which 
floated down his back, the badge of military, rather 
than of regal, rank. 

He was at this time about forty years of age. His 
person was tall and thin, but not ill made. His hair, 
which was black and straight, was not very long ; to 
wear it short was considered unbecoming persons of 
rank. His beard was thin ; his complexion somewhat 
paler than is often found in his dusky, or rather cop- 
per-colored, race. His features, though serious in their 
expression, did not wear the look of melancholy, in- 
deed, of dejection, which characterizes his portrait, 
and which may well have settled on them at a later 
period. He moved with dignity, and his whole de- 
meanor, tempered by an expression of benignity not 
to have been anticipated from the reports circulated of 
his character, was worthy of a great prince. Such is 

7 2 


the portrait left to us of the celebrated Indian emperor 
in this his first interview with the white men. 13 

The army halted as he drew near. Cortes, dis- 
mounting, threw his reins to a page, and, supported 
by a few of the principal cavaliers, advanced to meet 
him. The interview must have been one of uncommon 
interest to both. In Montezuma, Cortes beheld the 
lord of the broad realms he had traversed, whose 
magnificence and power had been the burden of every 
tongue. In the Spaniard, on the other hand, the 
Aztec prince saw the strange being whose history 
seemed to be so mysteriously connected with his own ; 
the predicted one of his oracles ; whose achievements 
proclaimed him something more than human. But, 
whatever may have been the monarch's feelings, he so 
far suppressed them as to receive his guest with princely 
courtesy, and to express his satisfaction at personally 

x 3 For the preceding account of the equipage and appearance of 
Montezuma, see Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 88, — Carta 
de Zuazo, MS., — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85, — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 65, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., ubi supra, et cap. 
45, — Acosta, lib. 7, cap. 22, — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., 
lib. 12, cap. 16, — Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — 
The noble Castilian or rather Mexican bard, Saavedra, who belonged 
to the generation after the Conquest, has introduced most of the 
particulars in his rhyming chronicle. The following specimen will 
probably suffice for the reader : 

" Yva el gran Moteguma atauiado 
De manta acul y blanca con gran falda, 
De algodon muy sutil y delicado, 

Y al remate vna concha de esmeralda : 
En la parte que el nudo tiene dado, 

Y una tiara a modo de guirnalda, 
Zapatos que de oro son las suelas 
Asidos con muy ricas correhuelas." 

El Peregrino Indiano, canto 11. 



seeing him in his capital. 14 Cortes responded by the 
most profound expressions of respect, while he made 
ample acknowledgments for the substantial proofs which 
the emperor had given the Spaniards of his munifi- 
cence. He then hung round Montezuma's neck a 
sparkling chain of colored crystal, accompanying this 
with a movement as if to embrace him, when he was 
restrained by the two Aztec lords, shocked at the 
menaced profanation of the sacred person of their 
master. 13 After the interchange of these civilities, 
Montezuma appointed his brother to conduct the Span- 
iards to their residence in the capital, and, again enter- 
ing his litter, was borne off amidst prostrate crowds in 
the same state in which he had come. The Spaniards 
quickly followed, and, with colors flying and music 
playing, soon made their entrance into the southern 
quarter of Tenochtitlan. 16 

Here, again, they found fresh cause for admiration in 
the grandeur of the city and the superior style of its 
architecture. The dwellings of the poorer class were, 
indeed, chiefly of reeds and mud. But the great ave- 
nue through which they were now marching was lined 
with the houses of the nobles, who were encouraged 
by the emperor to make the capital their residence. 
They were built of a red porous stone drawn from 
quarries in the neighborhood, and, though they rarely 

*4 " Satis vultu lseto," says Martyr, "an stomacho sedatus, et an 
hospites per vim quis unquam libens susceperit, experti loquantur." 
De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. 

*S Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 79. 

16 " Entraron en la ciudad de Mejico a punto de guerra, tocando los 
atambores, y con banderas desplegadas," etc. Sahagun, Hist, de 
Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 15. 
Vol. II. — d 7 


rose to a second story, often covered a large space of 
ground. The flat roofs, azoteas, were protected by- 
stone parapets, so that every house was a fortress. 
Sometimes these roofs resembled parterres of flowers, 
so thickly were they covered with them, but more 
frequently these were cultivated in broad terraced 
gardens, laid out between the edifices.' 7 Occasionally 
a great square or market-place intervened, surrounded 
by its porticoes of stone and stucco ; or a pyramidal 
temple reared its colossal bulk, crowned with its taper- 
ing sanctuaries, and altars blazing with inextinguish- 
able fires. The great street facing the southern cause- 
way, unlike most others in the place, was wide, and 
extended some miles in nearly a straight line, as before 
noticed, through the centre of the city. A spectator 
standing at one end of it, as his eye ranged along the 
deep vista of temples, terraces, and gardens, might 
clearly discern the other, with the blue mountains in 
the distance, which, in the transparent atmosphere of 
the table-land, seemed almost in contact with the 

But what most impressed the Spaniards was the 
throngs of people who swarmed through the streets 
and on the canals, filling every door-way and window 
and clustering on the roofs of the buildings. "I well 
remember the spectacle," exclaims Bernal Diaz: "it 
seems now, after so many years, as present to my mind 
as if it were but yesterday. ' ' l8 But what must have 

17 " Et giardini alti et bassi, che era cosa maravigliosa da vedere." 
Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. 

18 " £ Quien podra," exclaims the old soldier, " dezir la multitud de 
hombres, y mugeres, y muchachos, que estauan en las calles, k acu- 



been the sensations of the Aztecs themselves, as they 
looked on the portentous pageant ! as they heard, now 
for the first time, the well-cemented pavement ring 
under the iron tramp of the horses, — the strange ani- 
mals which fear had clothed in such supernatural terrors; 
as they gazed on the children of the East, revealing 
their celestial origin in their fair complexions ; saw the 
bright falchions and bonnets of steel, a metal to them 
unknown, glancing like meteors in the sun, while 
sounds of unearthly music — at least, such as their rude 
instruments had never wakened — floated in the air ! 
But every other emotion was lost in that of deadly 
hatred, when they beheld their detested enemy the 
Tlascalan stalking, in defiance, as it were, through 
their streets, and staring around with looks of ferocity 
and wonder, like some wild animal of the forest who 
had strayed by chance from his native fastnesses into 
the haunts of civilization. 19 

As they passed down the spacious street, the troops 
repeatedly traversed bridges suspended above canals, 
along which they saw the Indian barks gliding swiftly 
with their little cargoes of fruits and vegetables for 
the markets of Tenochtitlan. 20 At length they halted 

teas, y en Canoas en aquellas acequias, que nos salian a mirar ? Era 
cosa de notar, que agora que lo estoy escriuiendo, se me representa 
todo delante de mis ojos, como si ayer fuera quando esto passo." 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 88. 

*9 "Ad spectaculum," says the penetrating Martyr, "tandem His- 
panis placidum, quia diu optatum, Tenustiatanis prudentibus forte 
aliter, quia verentur fore, vt hi hospites quietem suam Elysiam veniant 
perturbaturi ; de populo secus, qui nil sentit asque delectabile, quam 
res novas ante oculos in presentiarum habere, de futuro nihil anxius." 
De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. 

20 The euphonious name of Tenochtitlan is commonly derived from 


before a broad area near the centre of the city, where 
rose the huge pyramidal pile dedicated to the patron 
war-god of the Aztecs, second only, in size as well as 
sanctity, to the temple of Cholula, and covering the 
same ground now in part occupied by the great cathe- 
dral of Mexico. 21 

Facing the western gate of the enclosure of the 
temple, stood a low range of stone buildings, spreading 
over a wide extent of ground, the palace of Axayacatl, 
Montezuma's father, built by that monarch about fifty 
years before. 22 It was appropriated as the barracks of 
the Spaniards. The emperor himself was in the court- 
yard, waiting to receive them. Approaching Cortes, he 
took from a vase of flowers, borne by one of his slaves, 
a massy collar, in which the shell of a species of craw- 
Aztec words signifying " the tuna, or cactus, on a rock," the appear- 
ance of which, as the reader may remember, was to determine the site 
of the future capital. (Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, Parte 3, cap. 7. — 
Esplic. de la Coleccion de Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. iv.) 
Another etymology derives the word from Tenoch, the name of one 
of the founders of the monarchy. 

21 [" Por algunos manuscritos que he consultado e investigaciones 
que he hecho, mc inclino & creer, que el templo se estendia desde la 
esquina de la calle de Platei-os y Empedradillo hasta la de Cordo- 
banes ; y de P. i. O., desde el tercio 6 cuarto de la placeta del Empe- 
dradillo, hasta penetrar unas cuantas varas hdcia el O., dentro de las 
aceras que miran al P., y forman las calles del Seminario y del Relox, 
Ramirez, Notas y Esclarecimientos, p. 103.] 

22 Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 78. — It occupied what is 
now the corner of the streets "Del Indio Triste" and "Tacuba."* 
Humboldt, Vues des Cordilleres, p. 7, et seq. 

* [Consequently, says Alaman, it must have faced the east, not 
the west gate of the Temple. Conquista de Mejico, torn, L p. 343. 



fish, much prized by the Indians, was set in gold and 
connected by heavy links of the same metal. From 
this chain depended eight ornaments, also of gold, 
made in resemblance of the same shell-fish, a span in 
length each, and of delicate workmanship ; *? for the 
Aztec goldsmiths were confessed to have shown skill in 
their craft not inferior to their brethren of Europe. 24 
Montezuma, as he hung the gorgeous collar round the 
general's neck, said, "This palace belongs to you, 
Malinche" ° 5 (the epithet by which he always addressed 
him), " and your brethren. Rest after your fatigues, 
for you have much need to do so, and in a little while 
I will visit you again." So saying, he withdrew with 
his attendants, evincing in this act a delicate consider- 
ation not to have been expected in a barbarian. 

Cortes' first care was to inspect his new quarters. 
The building, though spacious, was low, consisting of 
one floor, except, indeed, in the centre, where it rose 
to an additional story. The apartments were of great 
size, and afforded accommodations, according to the 
testimony of the Conquerors themselves, for the whole 

"3 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 88. — Gonzalo de las Casas, 
Defensa, MS., Parte i, cap. 24. 

=4 Boturini says, greater, by the acknowledgment of the goldsmiths 
themselves. " Los plateros de Madrid, viendo algunas Piezas, y 
Brazaletes de oro, con que se armaban en guerra los Reyes, y Capi- 
tanes Indianos, confessdron, que eran inimitables en Europa." (Idea, 
p. 78.) And Oviedo, speaking of their work in jewelry, remarks, " Io 
vi algunas piedras jaspes, calcidonias, jacintos, corniolas, e plasmas de 
esmeraldas, e otras de otras especies labradas 6 fechas, cabezas de 
Aves, 6 otras hechas animales 6 otras figuras, que dudo haber en 
Espana ni en Italia quien las supiera hacer con tanta perficion." Hist, 
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33 cap. 11. 

2 S Ante, vol. i. p. 472. 


army ! ■■ The hardy mountaineers of Tlascala were, 
probably, not very fastidious, and might easily find a 
shelter in the out-buildings, or under temporary awn- 
ings in the ample court-yards. The best apartments 
were hung with gay cotton draperies, the floors cov- 
ered with mats or rushes. There were, also, low stools 
made of single pieces of wood elaborately carved, and 
in most of the apartments beds made of the palm- 
leaf, woven into a thick mat, with coverlets, and some- 
times canopies, of cotton. These mats were the only 
beds used by the natives, whether of high or low 
degree. 27 

After a rapid survey of this gigantic pile, the general 
assigned his troops their respective quarters, and took 
as vigilant precautions for security as if he had antici- 
pated a siege instead of a friendly entertainment. The 
place was encompassed by a stone wall of considerable 
thickness, with towers or heavy buttresses at intervals, 
affording a good means of defence. He planted his 
cannon so as to command the approaches, stationed his 
sentinels along the works, and, in short, enforced in 
every respect as strict military discipline as had been 
observed in any part of the march. He well knew the 
importance to his little band, at least for the present, 
of conciliating the good will of the citizens ; and, to 
avoid all possibility of collision, he prohibited any 
soldier from leaving his quarters without orders, under 
pain of death. Having taken these precautions, he 

s6 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 88. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 8o. 

27 Bernal Diaz, Ibid., loc. cit. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 5. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 16. 


allowed his men to partake of the bountiful collation 
which had been prepared for them. 

They had been long enough in the country to become 
reconciled to, if not to relish, the peculiar cooking of 
the Aztecs. The appetite of the soldier is not often 
dainty, and on the present occasion it cannot be 
doubted that the Spaniards did full justice to the 
savory productions of the royal kitchen. During the 
meal they were served by numerous Mexican slaves, 
who were, indeed, distributed through the palace, 
anxious to do the bidding of the strangers. After the 
repast was concluded, and they had taken their siesta, 
not less important to a Spaniard than food itself, the 
presence of the emperor was again announced. 

Montezuma was attended by a few of his principal 
nobles. He was received with much deference by 
Cortes ; and, after the parties had taken their seats, a 
conversation commenced between them, through the 
aid of Dona Marina, while the cavaliers and Aztec 
chieftains stood around in respectful silence. 

Montezuma made many inquiries concerning the 
country of the Spaniards, their sovereign, the nature 
of his government, and especially their own motives in 
visiting Anahuac. Cortes explained these motives by 
the desire to see so distinguished a monarch and to 
declare to him the true Faith professed by the Chris- 
tians. With rare discretion, he contented himself with 
dropping this hint, for the present, allowing it to ripen 
in the mind of the emperor, till a future conference. 
The latter asked whether those white men who in the 
preceding year had landed on the eastern shores of his 
empire were their countrymen. He showed himself 


well informed of the proceedings of the Spaniards from 
their arrival in Tabasco to the present time, informa- 
tion of which had been regularly transmitted in the 
hieroglyphical paintings. He was curious, also, in re- 
gard to the rank of his visitors in their own country ; 
inquiring if they were the kinsmen of the sovereign. 
Cortes replied, they were kinsmen of one another, and 
subjects of their great monarch, who held them all in 
peculiar estimation. Before his departure, Montezuma 
made himself acquainted with the names of the 
principal cavaliers, and the position they occupied in 
the army. 

At the conclusion of the interview, the Aztec prince 
commanded his attendants to bring forward the 
presents prepared for his guests. They consisted of 
cotton dresses, enough to supply every man, it is said, 
including the allies, with a suit ! 28 And he did not 
fail to add the usual accompaniment of gold chains 
and other ornaments, which he distributed in profu- 
sion among the Spaniards. He then withdrew with the 
same ceremony with which he had entered, leaving 
every one deeply impressed with his munificence and 
his affability, so unlike what they had been taught to 

88 " Muchas y diversas Joyas de Oro, y Plata, y Plumajes, y con 
fasta cinco 6 seis mil Piezas de Ropa de Algodon muy ricas, y de 
diversas maneras texida, y labrada." (Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 
zana, p. 80.) Even this falls short of truth, according to Diaz. " Tenia 
apercebido el gran Montecuma muy ricas joyas de oro, y de muchas 
hechuras, que dio a nuestro Capitan, e assi mismo a. cada vno de 
nuestros Capitanes dio cositas de oro, y tres cargas de mantas de 
labores ricas de pluma, y entre todos los soldados tambien nos dio k 
cada vno a dos cargas de mantas, con alegria, y en todo parecia gran 
senor." (Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 89.) " Sex millia vestium, aiunt 
qui eas videre." Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. 


expect by what they now considered an invention of 
the enemy. 29 

That evening the Spaniards celebrated their arrival 
in the Mexican capital by a general discharge of artil- 
lery. The thunders of the ordnance, reverberating 
among the buildings and shaking them to their founda- 
tions, the stench of the sulphureous vapor that rolled 
in volumes above the walls of the encampment, re- 
minding the inhabitants of the explosions of the great 
volcan, filled the hearts of the superstitious Aztecs with 
dismay. It proclaimed to them that their city held in 
its bosom those dread beings whose path had been 
marked with desolation, and who could call down the 
thunderbolts to consume their enemies ! It was doubt- 
less the policy of Cortes to strengthen this superstitious 
feeling as far as possible, and to impress the natives, 
at the outset, with a salutary awe of the supernatural 
powers of the Spaniards. 30 

On the following morning, the general requested 
permission to return the emperor's visit, by waiting 
on him in his palace. This was readily granted, and 
Montezuma sent his officers to conduct the Spaniards 
to his presence. Cortes dressed himself in his richest 
habit, and left the quarters attended by Alvarado, 

*9 Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 
66. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 6. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, 
de la Conquista, cap. 88. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
cap. 5. 

3° " La noche siguiente jugaron la artilleria por la solemnidad de 
haber llegado sin dafio a donde deseaban ; pero los Indios como no 
usados a los truenos de la artilleria, mal edor de la polvora, recibieron 
grande alteration y miedo toda aquella noche." Sahagun, Hist, de 
Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 17. 


Sandoval, Velasquez, and Ordaz, together with five or 
six of the common file. 

The royal habitation was at no great distance. It 
stood on the ground, to the southwest of the cathedral, 
since covered in part by the Casa del Estado, the palace 
of the dukes of Monteleone, the descendants of Cortes. 31 
It was a vast, irregular pile of low stone buildings, like 
that garrisoned by the Spaniards. 32 So spacious was it, 
indeed, that, as one of the Conquerors assures us, 
although he had visited it more than once, for the 
express purpose, he had been too much fatigued each 
time by wandering through the apartments ever to see 
the whole of it. 33 It was built of the red porous stone 
of the country, tetzontli, was ornamented with marble, 
and on the facade over the principal entrance were 
sculptured the arms or device of Montezuma, an eagle 
bearing an ocelot in his talons. 34 

31 " C'est la que la famille construisit le bel edifice dans lequel se 
trouvent les archives del Estado, et qui est passe avec tout l'heritage 
au due Napolitain de Monteleone." (Humboldt, Essai politique, torn, 
ii. p. 72.) The inhabitants of modern Mexico have large obligations 
to this inquisitive traveller for the care he has taken to identify the 
memorable localities of their capital. It is not often that a philo- 
sophical treatise is also a good nianuel du voyageur. 

3= [The palace of Montezuma, according to Ramirez, " occupied the 
site where the national palace now stands, including that of the uni- 
versity and the adjacent houses, and extending to the Plaza del Vola- 
dor, or new market-place. This was the ordinary residence of the 
last Montezuma, and the place where he was actually made prisoner." 
Notas y Esclarecimientos, p. 103.] 

33 " Et io entrai phi di quattro volte in una casa del gran Signor non 
per altro effetto che per vederla, et ogni volta vi camminauo tanto che 
mi stancauo, et mai la fini di vedere tutta." Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, 
ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. 

34 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 71. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, 


In the courts through which the Spaniards passed, 
fountains of crystal water were playing, fed from the 
copious reservoir on the distant hill of Chapoltepec, 
and supplying in their turn more than a hundred baths 
in the interior of the palace. Crowds of Aztec nobles 
were sauntering up and down in these squares, and in 
the outer halls, loitering away their hours in attendance 
on the court. The apartments were of immense size, 
though not lofty. The ceilings were of various sorts 
of odoriferous wood ingeniously carved ; the floors 
covered with mats of the palm-leaf. The walls were 
hung with cotton richly stained, with the skins of wild 
animals, or gorgeous draperies of feather-work wrought 
in imitation of birds, insects, and flowers, with the 
nice art and glowing radiance of colors that might 
compare with the tapestries of Flanders. Clouds of 
incense rolled up from censers and diffused intoxicating 
odors through the apartments. The Spaniards might 
well have fancied themselves in the voluptuous pre- 
cincts of an Eastern harem, instead of treading the 
halls of a wild barbaric chief in the Western World. 33 

On reaching the hall of audience, the Mexican officers 
took off their sandals, and covered their gay attire 
with a mantle of nequen, a coarse stuff made of the 
fibres of the maguey, worn only by the poorest classes. 

cap. 9. — The authorities call it " tiger," an animal not known in 
America. I have ventured to substitute the "ocelot," tlalocelotl of 
Mexico, a native animal, which, being of the same family, might easily 
be confounded by the Spaniards with the tiger of the Old Continent. 
3S Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 9. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 71. — Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. s, 46. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 111-114. 


This act of humiliation was imposed on all, except 
the members of his own family, who approached the 
sovereign. 36 Thus bare-footed, with downcast eyes and 
formal obeisance, they ushered the Spaniards into the 
royal presence. 

They found Montezuma seated at the further end of 
a spacious saloon and surrounded by a few of his favor- 
ite chiefs. He received them kindly, and very soon 
Cortes, without much ceremony, entered on the subject 
which was uppermost in his thoughts. He was fully 
aware of the importance of gaining the royal convert, 
whose example would have such an influence on the 
conversion of his people. The general, therefore, 
prepared to display the whole store of his theological 
science, with the most winning arts of rhetoric he 
could command, while the interpretation was conveyed 
through the silver tones of Marina, as inseparable from 
him, on these occasions, as his shadow. 

He set forth, as clearly as he could, the ideas enter- 
tained by the Church in regard to the holy mysteries 
of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. 
From this he ascended to the origin of things, the 
creation of the world, the first pair, paradise, and the 
fall of man. He assured Montezuma that the idols he 
worshipped were Satan under different forms. A suffi- 

3 s " Para entrar en su palacio, & que ellos llaman Tecpa, todos se 
descalzaban, y los que entraban d negociar con el habian de Uevar 
manias groseras encima de si, y si eran grandes sefiores 6 en tiempo 
de frio, sobre las mantas buenas que llevaban vestidas, ponian una 
manta grosera y pobre ; y para hablarle, estaban muy humiliados y sin 
levantar los ojos." (Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.) 
There is no better authority than this worthy missionary for the usages 
of the ancient Aztecs, of which he had such large personal knowledge. 


cient proof of it was the bloody sacrifices they imposed, 
which he contrasted with the pure and simple rite of 
the mass. Their worship would sink him in perdition. 
It was to snatch his soul, and the souls of his people, 
from the flames of eternal fire by opening to them a 
purer faith, that the Christians had come to his land. 
And he earnestly besought him not to neglect the 
occasion, but to secure his salvation by embracing the 
Cross, the great sign of human redemption. 

The eloquence of the preacher was wasted on the 
insensible heart of his royal auditor. It doubtless lost 
somewhat of its efficacy, strained through the imper- 
fect interpretation of so recent a neophyte as the Indian 
damsel. But the doctrines were too abstruse in them- 
selves to be comprehended at a glance by the rude 
intellect of a barbarian. And Montezuma may have, 
perhaps, thought it was not more monstrous to feed on 
the flesh of a fellow-creature than on that of the Cre- 
ator himself. 37 He was, besides, steeped in the super- 
stitions of his country from his cradle. He had been 
educated in the straitest sect of her religion, had been 
himself a priest before his election to the throne, and 
was now the head both of the religion and the state. 
Little probability was there that such a man would be 
open to argument or persuasion, even from the lips of 
a more practised polemic than the Spanish commander. 
How could he abjure the faith that was intertwined 
with the dearest affections of his heart and the very 

37 The ludicrous effect — if the subject be not too grave to justify 
the expression — of a literal belief in the doctrine of transubstantia- 
tion in the mother-country, even at this day, is well illustrated by 
Blanco White, Letters from Spain (London, 1822), let. 1. 
Vol. II. 8 


elements of his being ? How could he be false to 
the gods who had raised him to such prosperity and 
honors, and whose shrines were intrusted to his especial 
keeping ? 

He listened, however, with silent attention, until the 
general had concluded his homily. He then replied 
that he knew the Spaniards had held this discourse 
wherever they had been. He doubted not their God 
was, as they said, a good being. His gods, also, were 
good to him. Yet what his visitor said of the creation 
of the world was like what he had been taught to be- 
lieve. 33 It was not worth while to discourse further 
of the matter. His ancestors, he said, were not the 
original proprietors of the land. They had occupied 
it but a few ages, and had been led there by a great 
Being, who, after giving them laws and ruling over the 
nation for a time, had withdrawn to the regions where 
the sun rises. He had declared, on his departure, that 
he or his descendants would again visit them and re- 
sume his empire.' 9 The wonderful deeds of the Span- 
iards, their fair complexions, and the quarter whence 
they came, all showed they were his descendants. If 
Montezuma had resisted their visit to his capital, it 
was because he had heard such accounts of their cruel- 
ties, — that they sent the lightning to consume his 

38 " Y en esso de la creacion del mundo ass{ lo tenemos nosotros 
creido muchos tiempos passados." (Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
quista, cap. 90.) For some points of resemblance between the Aztec 
and Hebrew traditions, see Book i, chap. 3, and Appendix, Part 1, of 
this History. 

39 " £ siempre hemos tenido, que de los que de £1 descendiessen 
habian de venir a sojuzgar esta tierra, y i. nosotros como & sus Va- 
sallos." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 81. 


people, or crushed them to pieces under the hard feet 
of the ferocious animals on which they rode. He was 
now convinced that these were idle tales; that the 
Spaniards were kind and generous in their natures ; 
they were mortals, of a different race, indeed, from the 
Aztecs, wiser, and more valiant, — and for this he 
honored them. 

"You, too," he added, with a smile, "have been 
told, perhaps, that I am a god, and dwell in palaces of 
gold and silver. 40 But you see it is false. My houses, 
though large, are of stone and wood like those of 
others; and as to my body," he said, baring his tawny 
arm, "you see it is flesh and bone like yours. It is 
true, I have a great empire inherited from my ancestors; 
lands, and gold, and silver. But your sovereign be- 
yond the waters is, I know, the rightful lord of all. I 
rule in his name. You, Malinche, are his ambassador; 
you and your brethren shall share these things with 
me. Rest now from your labors. You are here in 
your own dwellings, and everything shall be provided 
for your subsistence. I will see that your wishes shall 
be obeyed in the same way as my own." 41 As the 

40 " Y luego el Montecuma dixo riendo, porque en todo era muy 
regozijado en su hablar de gran sefior : Malinche, bien se que te han 
dicho essos de Tlascala, con quien tanta amistad aueis tornado, que 
yo que soy como Dios, 6 Teule, que quanto ay en mis casas es todo 
oro, e plata, y piedras ricas." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 90. 

■*» " 6 por tanto Vos sed cierto, que os obedeceremos, y tern<£mos 
por sefior en lugar de esse gran sefior, que decis, y que en ello no 
habia falta, ni engano alguno ; e bien podeis en toda la tierra, digo, 
que en la que yo en mi Senorio poseo, mandar a vuestra voluntad, 
porque sera obedecido y fecho, y todo lo que nosotros tenemos es para 
lo que Vos de ello quisieredes disponer.' ' Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ubi supra. 


monarch concluded these words, a few natural tears 
suffused his eyes, while the image of ancient inde- 
pendence, perhaps, flitted across his mind. 42 

Cortes, while he encouraged the idea that his own 
sovereign was the great Being indicated by Montezuma, 
endeavored to comfort the monarch by the assurance 
that his master had no desire to interfere with his 
authority, otherwise than, out of pure concern for his 
welfare, to effect his conversion and that of his people 
to Christianity. Before the emperor dismissed his 
visitors he consulted his munificent spirit, as usual, by 
distributing rich stuffs and trinkets of gold among 
them, so that the poorest soldier, says Bernal Diaz, one 
of the party, received at least two heavy collars of the 
precious metal for his share. The iron hearts of the 
Spaniards were touched with the emotion displayed by 
Montezuma, as well as by his princely spirit of liber- 
ality. As they passed him, the cavaliers, with bonnet 
in hand, made him the most profound obeisance, and 
"on the way home," continues the same chronicler, 
" we could discourse of nothing but the gentle breed- 
ing and courtesy of the Indian monarch, and of the 
respect we entertained for him." 43 

42 Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 
66. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Gonzalo de las 
Casas, MS., Parte 1, cap. 24. — Cortes, in his brief notes of this pro- 
ceeding, speaks only of the interview with Montezuma in the Spanish 
quarters, which he makes the scene of the preceding dialogue. Bernal 
Diaz transfers this to the subsequent meeting in the palace. In the 
only fact of importance, the dialogue itself, both substantially agree. 

43 " Assi nos despedimos con grandes cortesi'as del, y nos fuymos & 
nuestros aposentos, e ibamos platicando de la buena manera 6 crianc^i 
que en todo tenia, e que nosotros en todo le tuuiessemos mucho 


Speculations of a graver complexion must have pressed 
on the mind of the general, as he saw around him the 
evidences of a civilization, and consequently power, 
for which even the exaggerated reports of the natives — 
discredited from their apparent exaggeration — had not 
prepared him. In the pomp and burdensome cere- 
monial of the court he saw that nice s'ystem of subor- 
dination and profound reverence for the monarch which 
characterize the semi-civilized empires of Asia. In 
the appearance of the capital, its massy yet elegant 
architecture, its luxurious social accommodations, its 
activity in trade, he recognized the proofs of the in- 
tellectual progress, mechanical skill, and enlarged 
resources of an old and opulent community; while the 
swarms in the streets attested the existence of a popu- 
lation capable of turning these resources to the best 

In the Aztec he beheld a being unlike either the 
rude republican Tlascalan or the effeminate Cholulan, 
but combining the courage of the one with the culti- 
vation of the other. He was in the heart of a great 
capital, which seemed like an extensive fortification, 
with its dikes and its draw-bridges, where every house 
might be easily converted into a castle. Its insular 
position removed it from the continent, from which, at 
the mere nod of the sovereign, all communication might 
be cut off, and the whole warlike population be at once 
precipitated on him and his handful of followers. What 
could superior science avail against such odds ? 44 

acato, 6 con las gorras de armas colchadas quitadas, quando delante 
del passassemos." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 90. 
44 1. Y assi," says Toribio de Benavente, " estaba tan fuerte esta 




As to the subversion of Montezuma's empire, now 
that he had seen him in his capital, it must have 
seemed a more doubtful enterprise than ever. The 
recognition which the Aztec prince had made of the 
feudal supremacy, if I may so say, of the Spanish sover- 
eign, was not to be taken too literally. Whatever show 
of deference he might be disposed to pay the latter 
under the influence of his present — perhaps temporary 
— delusion, it was not to be supposed that he would so 
easily relinquish his actual power and possessions, or 
that his people would consent to it. Indeed, his sensi- 
tive apprehensions in regard to this very subject, on 
the coming of the Spaniards, were sufficient proof of 
the tenacity with which he clung to his authority. It 
is true that Cortes had a strong lever for future oper- 
ations in the superstitious reverence felt for himself 
both by prince and people. It was undoubtedly his 
policy to maintain this sentiment unimpaired in both, 
as far as possible. 45 But, before settling any plan of 
operations, it was necessary to make himself personally 
acquainted with the topography and local advantages 
of the capital, the character of its population, and the 
real nature and amount of its resources. With this 
view, he asked the emperor's permission to visit the 
principal public edifices. 

ciudad, que parecia no bastar poder humano para ganarla ; porque 
ademas de su fuerza y munition que tenia, era cabeza y Senoria de 
toda la tierra, y el Senor de ella (Moteczuma) gloriabase en su silla y 
en la fortaleza de su ciudad, y en la muchedumbre de sus vassallos." 
Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8. 

45 " Many are of opinion," says Father Acosta, " that, if the Span- 
iards had continued the course they began, they might easily have 
disposed of Montezuma and his kingdom, and introduced the law of 
Christ, without much bloodshed." Lib. 7, cap. 25. 



Antonio de Herrera, the celebrated chronicler of the Indies, was 
born of a respectable family at Cuella, in Old Spain, in 1549. After 
passing through the usual course of academic discipline in his own 
country, he went to Italy, to which land of art and letters the Spanish 
youth of that time frequently resorted to complete their education. 
He there became acquainted with Vespasian Gonzaga, brother of the 
duke of Mantua, and entered into his service. He continued with this 
prince after he was made Viceroy of Navarre, and was so highly re- 
garded by him, that, on his death-bed, Gonzaga earnestly commended 
him to the protection of Philip the Second. This penetrating monarch 
soon discerned the excellent qualities of Herrera, and raised him to the 
post of Historiographer of the Indies, — an office for which Spain is in- 
debted to Philip. Thus provided with a liberal salary, and with every 
facility for pursuing the historical researches to which his inclination 
led him, Herrera's days glided peacefully away in the steady, but 
silent, occupations of a man of letters. He continued to hold the 
office of historian of the colonies through Philip the Second's reign, 
and under his successors, Philip the Third and the Fourth ; till in 
1625 he died at the advanced age of seventy-six, leaving behind him 
a high character for intellectual and moral worth. 

Herrera wrote several works, chiefly historical. The most impor- 
tant, that on which his reputation rests, is his Historia general de las 
Indias occidentales. It extends from the year 1492, the time of the 
discovery of America, to 1554, and is divided into eight decades. Four 
of them were published in 1601, and the remaining four in 1615, mak- 
ing in all five volumes in folio. The work was subsequently repub- 
lished in 1730, and has been translated into most of the languages of 
Europe. The English translator, Stevens, has taken great liberties 
with his original, in the way of abridgment and omission, but the ex- 
ecution of his work is, on the whole, superior to that of most of the old 
English versions of the Castilian chroniclers. 

Herrera's vast subject embraces the whole colonial empire of Spain 
in the New World. The work is thrown into the form of annals, and 
the multifarious occurrences in the distant regions of which he treats 
are all marshalled with exclusive reference to their chronology, and 
made to move together/aW passu. By means of this tasteless arrange- 
ment the thread of interest is perpetually snapped, the reader is hurried 
from one scene to another, without the opportunity of completing his 
survey of any. His patience is exhausted and his mind perplexed 
with partial and scattered glimpses, instead of gathering new light as 


he advances from the skilful development of a continuous and well- 
digested narrative. This is the great defect of a plan founded on a 
slavish adherence to chronology. The defect becomes more serious 
when the work, as in the present instance, is of vast compass and 
embraces a great variety of details having little relation to each other. 
In such a work we feel the superiority of a plan like that which Rob- 
ertson has pursued in his " History of America," where every subject 
is allowed to occupy its own independent place, proportioned to its 
importance, and thus to make a distinct and individual impression on 
the reader. 

Herrera's position gave him access to the official returns from the 
colonies, state papers, and whatever documents existed in the public 
offices for the illustration of the colonial history. Among these sources 
of information were some manuscripts, with which it is not now easy 
to meet; as, for example, the memorial of Alonso de Ojeda, one of 
the followers of Cortes, which has eluded my researches both in Spain 
and Mexico. Other writings, as those of Father Sahagun, of much 
importance in the history of Indian civilization, were unknown to the 
historian. Of such manuscripts as fell into his hands, Herrera made 
the freest use. From the writings of Las Casas, in particular, he bor- 
rowed without ceremony. The bishop had left orders that his " His- 
tory of the Indies" should not be published till at least forty years 
after his death. Before that period had elapsed, Herrera had entered 
on his labors, and, as he had access to the papers of Las Casas, he 
availed himself of it to transfer whole pages, nay, chapters, of his nar- 
rative in the most unscrupulous manner to his own work. In doing 
this, he made a decided improvement on the manner of his original, re- 
duced his cumbrous and entangled sentences to pure Castilian, omitted 
his turgid declamation and his unreasonable invectives. But, at the 
same time, he also excluded the passages that bore hardest on the 
conduct of his countrymen, and those bursts of indignant eloquence 
which showed a moral sensibility in the Bishop of Chiapa that raised 
him so far above his age. By this sort of metempsychosis, if one may 
so speak, by which the letter and not the spirit of the good missionary 
was transferred to Herrera's pages, he rendered the publication of Las 
Casas' history, in some measure, superfluous; and this circumstance 
has, no doubt, been one reason for its having been so long detained 
in manuscript. 

Yet, with every allowance for the errors incident to rapid composi- 
tion, and to the pedantic chronological system pursued by Herrera, 



his work must be admitted to have extraordinary merit. It displays 
to the reader the whole progress of Spanish conquest and colonization 
in the New World for the first sixty years after the discovery. The 
individual actions of his complicated story, though unskilfully grouped 
together, are unfolded in a pure and simple style, well suited to the 
gravity of his subject. If at first sight he may seem rather too willing 
to magnify the merits of the early discoverers and to throw a veil over 
their excesses, it may be pardoned, as flowing, not from moral insen- 
sibility, but from the patriotic sentiment which made him desirous, as 
far as might be, to wipe away every stain from the escutcheon of his 
nation, in the proud period of her renown. It is natural that the 
Spaniard who dwells on this period should be too much dazzled by 
the display of her gigantic efforts, scrupulously to weigh their moral 
character, or the merits of the cause in which they were made. Yet 
Herrera's national partiality never makes him the apologist of crime ; 
and, with the allowances fairly to be conceded, he may be entitled to 
the praise so often given him of integrity and candor. 

It must not be forgotten that, in addition to the narrative of the 
early discoveries of the Spaniards, Herrera has brought together a vast 
quantity of information in respect to the institutions and usages of the 
Indian nations, collected from the most authentic sources. This gives 
his work a completeness beyond what is to be found in any other on 
the same subject. It is, indeed, a noble monument of sagacity and 
erudition ; and the student of history, and still more the historical 
compiler, will find himself unable to advance a single step among the 
early colonial settlements of the New World without reference to the 
pages of Herrera. 

Another writer on Mexico, frequently consulted in the course of the 
present narrative, is Toribio de Benavente, or Motolinia, as he is still 
more frequently called, from his Indian cognomen. He was one of 
the twelve Franciscan missionaries who, at the request of Cortes, were 
sent out to New Spain immediately after the Conquest, in 1523. To- 
ribio's humble attire, naked feet, and, in short, the poverty-stricken 
aspect which belongs to his order, frequently drew from the natives 
the exclamation of Motolinia, or "poor man." It was the first Aztec 
word the signification of which the missionary learned, and he was so 
much pleased with it, as intimating his own condition, that he hence- 
forth assumed it as his name. Toribio employed himself zealously 
with his brethren in the great object of their mission. He travelled 
on foot over various parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. 



Wherever he went, he spared no pains to wean the natives from their 
dark idolatry, and to pour into their minds the light of revelation. He 
showed even a tender regard for their temporal as well as spiritual 
wants, and Bernal Diaz testifies that he has known him to give away 
his own robe to clothe a destitute and suffering Indian. Yet this char- 
itable friar, so meek and conscientious in the discharge of his Christian 
duties, was one of the fiercest opponents of Las Casas, and sent home 
a remonstrance against the Bishop of Chiapa, couched in terms the 
most opprobrious and sarcastic. It has led the bishop's biographer, 
Quintana, to suggest that the friar's threadbare robe may have covered 
somewhat of worldly pride and envy. It may be so. Yet it may also 
lead us to distrust the discretion of Las Casas himself, who could carry 
measures with so rude a hand as to provoke such unsparing animad- 
versions from his fellow-laborers in the vineyard. 

Toribio was made guardian of a Franciscan convent at Tezcuco. 
In this situation he continued active in good works, and at this place, 
and in his different pilgrimages, is stated to have baptized more than 
four hundred thousand natives. His efficacious piety was attested by 
various miracles. One of the most remarkable was when the Indians 
were suffering from great drought, which threatened to annihilate the 
approaching harvests. The good father recommended a solemn pro- 
cession of the natives to the church of Santa Cruz, with prayers and 
a vigorous flagellation. The effect was soon visible in such copious 
rains as entirely relieved the people from their apprehensions, and in 
the end made the season uncommonly fruitful. The counterpart to 
this prodigy was afforded a few years later, while the country was 
laboring under excessive rains ; when, by a similar remedy, the evil 
was checked, and a like propitious influence exerted on the season as 
before. The exhibition of such miracles greatly edified the people, 
says his biographer, and established them firmly in the Faith. Proba- 
bly Toribio's exemplary life and conversation, so beautifully illus- 
trating the principles which he taught, did quite as much for the good 
cause as his miracles. 

Thus passing his days in the peaceful and pious avocations of the 
Christian missionary, the worthy ecclesiastic was at length called from 
the scene of his earthly pilgrimage, in what year is uncertain, but at 
an advanced age, for he survived all the little band of missionaries 
who had accompanied him to New Spain. He died in the convent 
of San Francisco at Mexico, and his panegyric is thus emphatically 
pronounced by Torquemada, a brother of his own order: " He was 



a truly apostolic man, a great teacher of Christianity, beautiful in the 
ornament of every virtue, jealous of the glory of God, a friend of 
evangelical poverty, most true to the observance of his monastic rule, 
and zealous in the conversion of the heathen." 

Father Toribio's long personal intercourse with the Mexicans, and 
the knowledge of their language, which he was at much pains to ac- 
quire, opened to him all the sources of information respecting them 
and their institutions, which existed at the time of the Conquest. The 
results he carefully digested in the work so often cited in these pages, 
the Historla de los Indies de Nueva-Espana, making a volume of man- 
uscript in folio. It is divided into three parts. I. The religion, rites, 
and sacrifices of the Aztecs. 2. Their conversion to Christianity, and 
their manner of celebrating the festivals of the Church. 3. The genius 
and character of the nation, their chronology and astrology, together 
with notices of the principal cities and the staple productions of the 
country. Notwithstanding the methodical arrangement of the work, 
it is written in the rambling, unconnected manner of a commonplace- 
book, into which the author has thrown at random his notices of such 
matters as most interested him in his survey of the country. His own 
mission is ever before his eyes, and the immediate topic of discussion, 
of whatever nature it may be, is at once abandoned to exhibit an 
event or an anecdote that can illustrate his ecclesiastical labors. The 
most startling occurrences are recorded with all the credulous gravity 
which is so likely to win credit from the vulgar ; and a stock of mira- 
cles is duly attested by the historian, of more than sufficient magni- 
tude to supply the wants of the infant religious communities of New 

Yet amidst this mass of pious incredibilia the inquirer into the 
Aztec antiquities will find much curious and substantial information. 
Toribio's long and intimate relations with the natives put him in 
possession of their whole stock of theology and science ; and as his 
manner, though somewhat discursive, is plain and unaffected, there 
is no obscurity in the communication of his ideas. His inferences, 
colored by the superstitions of the age and the peculiar nature of his 
profession, may be often received with distrust. But, as his integrity 
and his means of information were unquestionable, his work becomes 
of the first authority in relation to the antiquities of the country, and 
its condition at the period of the Conquest. As an educated man, he was 
enabled to penetrate deeper than the illiterate soldiers of Cortes, men 
given to action rather than to speculation. Yet Toribio's manuscript, 

g 6 MARTYR. 

valuable as it is to the historian, has never been printed, and has too 
little in it of popular interest, probably, ever to be printed. Much 
that it contains has found its way, in various forms, into subsequent 
compilations. The work itself is very rarely to be found. Dr. Robert- 
son had a copy, as it seems from the catalogue of MSS. published 
with his " History of America;" though the author's name is not pre- 
fixed to it. There is no copy, I believe, in the library of the Academy 
of History at Madrid; and for that in my possession I am indebted 
to the kindness of that curious bibliographer, Mr. O. Rich, now 
consul for the United States at Minorca. 

Pietro Martire de Angleria, or Peter Martyr, as he is called by 
English writers, belonged to an ancient and highly respectable family 
of Arona in the north of Italy. In 1487 he was induced by the count 
of Tendilla, the Spanish ambassador at Rome, to return with him to 
Castile. He was graciously received by Queen Isabella, always de- 
sirous to draw around her enlightened foreigners, who might exercise 
a salutary influence on the rough and warlike nobility of Castile. 
Martyr, who had been educated for the Church, was persuaded by 
the queen to undertake the instruction of the young nobles at the 
court. In this way he formed an intimacy with some of the most 
illustrious men of the nation, who seem to have cherished a warm 
personal regard for him through the remainder of his life. He was 
employed by the Catholic sovereigns in various concerns of public 
interest, was sent on a mission to Egypt, and was subsequently raised 
to a distinguished post in the cathedral of Granada. But he continued 
to pass much of his time at court, where he enjoyed the confidence 
of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of their successor, Charles the Fifth, 
till in 1525 he died, at the age of seventy. 

Martyr's character combined qualities not often found in the same 
individual, — an ardent love of letters, with a practical sagacity that 
can only result from familiarity with men and affairs. Though passing 
his days in the gay and dazzling society of the capital, he preserved 
the simple tastes and dignified temper of a philosopher. His corre- 
spondence, as well as his more elaborate writings, if the term elaborate 
can be applied to any of his writings, manifests an enlightened and 
oftentimes independent spirit ; though one would have been better 
pleased had he been sufficiently independent to condemn the religious 
intolerance of the government. But Martyr, though a philosopher, 
was enough of a courtier to look with a lenient eye on the errors of 
princes. Though deeply imbued with the learning of antiquity, and 


a scholar at heart, he had none of the feelings of the recluse, but took 
the most lively interest in the events that were passing around him. 
His various writings, including his copious correspondence, are for 
this reason the very best mirror of the age in which he lived. 

His inquisitive mind was particularly interested by the discoveries 
that were going on in the New World. He was allowed to be present 
at the sittings of the Council of the Indies when any communication 
of importance was made to it ; and he was subsequently appointed a 
member of that body. All that related to the colonies passed through 
his hands. The correspondence of Columbus, Cortes, and the other 
discoverers with the court of Castile was submitted to his perusal. 
He became personally acquainted with these illustrious persons on 
their return home, and frequently, as we find from his letters, enter- 
tained them at his own table. With these advantages, his testimony 
becomes but one degree removed from that of the actors themselves 
in the great drama. In one respect it is of a higher kind, since it 
is free from the prejudice and passion which a personal interest in 
events is apt to beget. The testimony of Martyr is that of a philoso- 
pher, taking a clear and comprehensive survey of the ground, with 
such lights of previous knowledge to guide him as none of the actual 
discoverers and conquerors could pretend to. It is true, this does not 
prevent his occasionally falling into errors ; the errors of credulity, — 
not, however, of the credulity founded on superstition, but that which 
arises from the uncertain nature of the subject, where phenomena so 
unlike anything with which he had been familiar were now first dis- 
closed by the revelation of an unknown world. 

He may be more fairly charged with inaccuracies of another descrip- 
tion, growing out of haste and inadvertence of composition. But 
even here we should be charitable. For he confesses his sins with a 
candor that disarms criticism. In truth, he wrote rapidly, and on the 
spur of the moment, as occasion served. He shrunk from the publi- 
cation of his writings, when it was urged on him, and his Decades De 
Orbe Novo, in which he embodied the results of his researches in re- 
spect to the American discoveries, were not published entire till after 
his death. The most valuable and complete edition of this work — 
the one referred to in the present pages — is the edition of Hakluyt, 
published at Paris in 1587. 

Martyr's works are all in Latin, and that not the purest ; a circum- 
stance rather singular, considering his familiarity with the classic models 
of antiquity. Yet he evidently handled the dead languages with the 
Vol. II. — e 9 


same facility as the living. Whatever defects may be charged on his 
manner, in the selection and management of his topics he shows the 
superiority of his genius. He passes over the trivial details which 
so often encumber the literal narratives of the Spanish voyagers, 
and fixes his attention on the great results of their discoveries, — the 
products of the country, the history and institutions of the races, their 
character and advance in civilization. In one respect his writings 
are of peculiar value. They show the state of feeling which existed 
at the Castilian court during the progress of discovery. They furnish, 
in short, the reverse side of the picture ; and, when we have followed 
the Spanish conquerors in their wonderful career of adventure in 
the New World, we have only to turn to the pages of Martyr to find 
the impression produced by them on the enlightened minds of the 
Old. Such a view is necessary to the completeness of the historical 

If the reader is curious to learn more of this estimable scholar, he 
will find the particulars given in " The History of Ferdinand and Isa- 
bella" (Part I. chap. 14, Postscript, and chap. 19), for the illustration 
of whose reign his voluminous correspondence furnishes the most 
authentic materials. 







tezcucan lake. description of the capital. — 

palaces and museums. royal household. — 

Montezuma's way of life. 

The ancient city of Mexico covered the same spot 
occupied by the modern capital. The great causeways 
touched it in the same points ; the streets ran in much 
the same direction, nearly from north to south and 
from east to west ; the cathedral in the plaza mayor 
stands on the same ground that was covered by the 
temple of the Aztec war-god ; and the four principal 
quarters of the town are still known among the Indians 
by their ancient names. Yet an Aztec of the days of 
Montezuma, could he behold the modern metropolis, 
which has risen with such phcenix-like splendor from 
the ashes of the old, would not recognize its site as that 
of his own Tenochtitlan. For the latter was encom- 
passed by the salt floods of Tezcuco, which flowed in 
ample canals through every part of the city ; while the 

Q* ( 101 ) 


Mexico of our day stands high and dry on the main 
land, nearly a league distant, at its centre, from the 
water. The cause of this apparent change in its position 
is the diminution of the lake, which, from the rapidity 
of evaporation in these elevated regions, had become 
perceptible before the Conquest, but which has since 
been greatly accelerated by artificial causes. 1 

The average level of the Tezcucan lake, at the pres- 
ent day, is but four feet lower than the great square of 
Mexico. 2 It is considerably lower than the other great 
basins of water which are found in the Valley. In the 
heavy swell sometimes caused by long and excessive 
rains, these latter reservoirs anciently overflowed into 
the Tezcuco, which, rising with the accumulated volume 
of waters, burst through the dikes, and, pouring into 
the streets of the capital, buried the lower part of the 
buildings under a deluge. This was comparatively a 
light evil when the houses stood on piles so elevated 
that boats might pass under them ; when the streets 
were canals, and the ordinary mode of communication 
was by water. But it became more disastrous as these 
canals, filled up with the rubbish of the ruined Indian 
city, were supplanted by streets of solid earth, and the 
foundations of the capital were gradually reclaimed 

* The lake, it seems, had perceptibly shrunk before the Conquest, 
from the testimony of Motolinia, who entered the country soon after. 
Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6. 

3 Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 95. — Cortes supposed there 
were regular tides in this lake. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 101.) 
This sorely puzzles the learned Martyr (De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 
3) ; as it has more than one philosopher since, whom it has led to 
speculate on a subterraneous communication with the ocean ! What 
the general called "tides" was probably the periodical swells caused 
by the prevalence of certain regular winds. 


from the watery element. To obviate this alarming 
evil, the famous drain of Huehuetoca was opened, at 
an enormous cost, in the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, and Mexico, after repeated inundations, has 
been at length placed above the reach of the flood. 3 
But what was gained to the useful, in this case, as in 
some others, has been purchased at the expense of the 
beautiful. By this shrinking of the waters, the bright 
towns and hamlets once washed by them have been 
removed some miles into the interior, while a barren 
strip of land, ghastly from the incrustation of salts 
formed on the surface, has taken the place of the glowing 
vegetation which once enamelled the borders of the 
lake, and of the dark groves of oak, cedar, and syca- 
more which threw their broad shadows over its bosom. 
The chinampas , that archipelago of wandering islands, 
to which our attention was drawn in the last chapter, 
have, also, nearly disappeared. These had their origin 
in the detached masses of earth, which, loosening from 
the shores, were still held together by the fibrous roots 
with which they were penetrated. The primitive Az- 
tecs, in their poverty of land, availed themselves of the 
hint thus afforded by nature. They constructed rafts 
of reeds, rushes, and other fibrous materials, which, 
tightly knit together, formed a sufficient basis for the 
sediment that they drew up from the bottom of the 
lake. Gradually islands were formed, two or three 
hundred feet in length, and three or four feet in depth, 

3 Humboldt has given a minute account of this tunnel, which he 
pronounces one of the most stupendous hydraulic works in existence, 
and the completion of which, in its present form, does not date earlier 
than the latter part of the last century. See his Essai politique, torn, 
ii. p. 105, et seq. 


with a rich stimulated soil, on which the economical 
Indian raised his vegetables and flowers for the markets 
of Tenochtitlan. Some of these chinampas were even 
firm enough to allow the growth of small trees, and to 
sustain a hut for the residence of the person that had 
charge of it, who with a long pole, resting on the sides 
or the bottom of the shallow basin, could change the 
position of his little territory at pleasure, which with 
its rich freight of vegetable stores was seen moving 
like some enchanted island over the water. 4 

The ancient dikes were three in number. That of 
Iztapalapan, by which the Spaniards entered, approach- 
ing the city from the south. That of Tepejacac, on 
the north, which, continuing the principal street, might 
be regarded, also, as a continuation of the first cause- 
way. Lastly, the dike of Tlacopan, connecting the 
island-city with the continent on the west. This last 
causeway, memorable for the disastrous retreat of the 
Spaniards, was about two miles in length. They were 
all built in the same substantial manner, of lime and 
stone, were defended by draw-bridges, and were wide 
enough for ten or twelve horsemen to ride abreast. 5 

The rude founders of Tenochtitlan built their frail 
tenements of reeds and rushes on the group of small 
islands in the western part of the lake. In process of 
time, these were supplanted by more substantial build- 
ings. A quarry in the neighborhood, of a red porous 

4 Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 87, et seq. — Clavigero, Stor. 
del Messico, torn. ii. p. 153. 

5 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8. — Cortes, indeed, 
speaks of four causeways. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 102.) He 
may have reckoned an arm of the southern one leading to Cojohua- 
can, or possibly the great aqueduct of Chapoltepec. 



amygdaloid, tetzontli, was opened, and a light, brittle 
stone drawn from it and wrought with little difficulty. 
Of this their edifices were constructed, with some 
reference to architectural solidity, if not elegance. 
Mexico, as already noticed, was the residence of the 
great chiefs, whom the sovereign encouraged, or rather 
compelled, from obvious motives of policy, to spend 
part of the year in the capital. It was also the tem- 
porary abode of the great lords of Tezcuco and Tla- 
copan, who shared, nominally at least, the sovereignty 
of the empire. 6 The mansions of these dignitaries, 
and of the principal nobles, were on a scale of rude 
magnificence corresponding with their state. They 
were low, indeed, — seldom of more than one floor, 
never exceeding two. But they spread over a wide 
extent of ground, were arranged in a quadrangular 
form, with a court in the centre, and were surrounded 
by porticoes embellished with porphyry and jasper, 
easily found in the neighborhood, while not unfre- 
quently a fountain of crystal water in the centre shed 
a grateful coolness through the air. The dwellings of 
the common people were also placed on foundations 
of stone, which rose to the height of a few feet and 
were then succeeded by courses of unbaked bricks, 
crossed occasionally by wooden rafters. 7 Most of the 

6 Ante, vol. i. p. 21. 

7 Martyr gives a particular account of these dwellings, which shows 
that even the poorer classes were comfortably lodged. " Populares 
vero domus cingulo virili tenus lapidese sunt et ipsse, ob lacunas incre- 
mentum per fluxum aut fiuviorum in ea labentium alluvies. Super 
fundamentis illis magnis, lateribus turn coctis, turn aestivo sole siccatis, 
immixtis trabibus reliquam molem construunt ; uno sunt communes 
domus contentse tabulato. In solo parum hosp'tantur propter humidi- 



streets were mean and narrow. Some few, however 
were wide and of great length. The principal street, 
conducting from the great southern causeway, pene- 
trated in a straight line the whole length of the city, 
and afforded a noble vista, in which the long lines of 
low stone edifices were broken occasionally by inter- 
vening gardens, rising on terraces and displaying all 
the pomp of Aztec horticulture. 

The great streets, which were coated with a hard 
cement, were intersected by numerous canals. Some 
of these were flanked by a solid way, which served as 
a foot-walk for passengers, and as a landing-place 
where boats might discharge their cargoes. Small 
buildings were erected at intervals, as stations for the 
revenue officers who collected the duties on different 
articles of merchandise. The canals were traversed 
by numerous bridges, many of which could be raised, 
affording the means of cutting off communication 
between different parts of the city. 8 

From the accounts of the ancient capital, one is 
reminded of those aquatic cities in the Old World, the 
positions of which have been selected from similar mo- 
tives of economy and defence; above all, of Venice, 9 
— if it be not rash to compare the rude architecture 

tatem, tecta ncm tegulis sed bitumine quodam terreo vestiunt ; ad solem 
captandum commodior est ille modus, breviore tempore consumi 
debere credendum est." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10. 

8 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8. — Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 108. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 10, 11. — Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. 

9 Martyr was struck with the resemblance. " Uti de illustrissima 
civitate Venetiarum legitur, ad tumulum in ea sinus Adriatici parte 
visum, fuisse constructam." Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10. 


of the American Indian with the marble palaces and 
temples — alas, how shorn of their splendor ! — which 
crowned the once proud mistress of the Adriatic. 10 The 
example of the metropolis was soon followed by the 
other towns in the vicinity. Instead of resting their 
foundations on terra firma, they were seen advancing 
far into the lake, the shallow waters of which in some 
parts do not exceed four feet in depth." Thus an 
easy means of intercommunication was opened, and 
the surface of this inland "sea," as Cortes styles it, 
was darkened by thousands of canoes 12 — an Indian 
term — industriously engaged in the traffic between 
these little communities. How gay and picturesque 

10 May we not apply, without much violence, to the Aztec capital, 
Giovanni della Casa's spirited sonnet, contrasting the origin of Venice 
with its meridian glory ? 

" Questi Palazzi e queste logge or colte 

D'ostro, di marmo e di figure elette, 

Fur poche e basse case insieme accolte 

Deserti lidi e povere Isolette. 
Ma genti ardite d'ogni vizio sciolte 

Premeano il mar con picciole barchette, 

Che qui non per domar provincie molte, 

Ma fuggir servitu s' eran ristrette 
Non era ambizion ne' petti loro ; 

Ma '1 mentire abborrian piu che la morte, 

Ne vi regnava ingorda fame d' oro. 
Se '1 Ciel v' ha dato piu beata sorte, 

Non sien quelle virtu che tanto onoro, 

Dalle nuove ricchezze oppresse emorte ' 

11 " Le lac de Tezcuco n'a generalement que trois a cinq metres de 
profondeur. Dans quelques endroits le fond se trouve meme deja a 
moins d'un metre." Humboiut, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 49. 

12 " Y cada dia entran gran multitud de Indios cargados de basti- 
mentos y tributos, asi por tierra como por agua, en acales 6 barcas, 
que en lengua de las Islas llaman Canoas." Toribio, Hist, de los In- 
dios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6. 


must have been the aspect of the lake in those days, 
with its shining cities, and flowering islets rocking, as 
it were, at anchor on the fair bosom of its waters ! 

The population of Tenochtitlan at the time of the 
Conquest is variously stated. No contemporary writer 
estimates it at less than sixty thousand houses, which, 
by the ordinary rules of reckoning, would give three 
hundred thousand souls. 13 If a dwelling often con- 
tained, as is asserted, several families, it would swell 
the amount considerably higher. 14 Nothing is more 
uncertain than estimates of numbers among barbarous 
communities, who necessarily live in a more confused 
and promiscuous manner than civilized, and among 
whom no regular system is adopted for ascertaining the 
population. The concurrent testimony of the Con- 

« " Esta la cibdad de Mejico oTeneztutan, que serd de sesenta mil 
vecinos." (Carta del Lie. Zuazo, MS.) " Tenustitanam ipsam in- 
quiunt sexaginta circiter esse millium domorum." (Martyr, De Orbe 
Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.) " Era Mejico, quando Cortes entro, pueblo 
de sesenta mil casas." (Gomara, Cronica, cap. 78.) Toribio says, 
vaguely, " Los moradores y gente era innumerable." (Hist, de los 
Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8.) The Italian translation of the "Anony- 
mous Conqueror," who survives only in translation, says, indeed, 
" meglio di sessanta mila habitatori" (Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. 
Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309) ; owing, probably, to a blunder in render- 
ing the word vecinos, the ordinary term in Spanish statistics, which, 
signifying householders, corresponds with the Italian ftcochi. See, 
also, Clavigero. (Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 86, nota.) Robertson 
rests exclusively on this Italian translation for his estimate. (History 
of America, vol. ii. p. 281.) He cites, indeed, two other authorities in 
the same connection ; Cortes, who says nothing of the population, and 
Herrera, who confirms the popular statement of "sesenta mil casas." 
(Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 13.) The fact is of some importance. 

J 4 " In the smallest houses, with few exceptions, two, four, and even 
six families resided together." Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 7 
cap. 13. 



querors ; the extent of the city, which was said to be 
nearly three leagues in circumference ; IS the immense 
size of its great market-place; the long lines of edifices, 
vestiges of whose ruins may still be found in the sub- 
urbs, miles from the modern city; 16 the fame of the 
metropolis throughout Anahuac, which, however, could 
boast many large and populous places ; lastly, the 
economical husbandry and the ingenious contrivances 
to extract aliment from the most unpromising sources, 17 
— all attest a numerous population, far beyond that of 
the present capital. 18 

»5 Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. 

16 " C'est sur le chemin qui mene a Tanepantla et aux Ahuahuetes 
que Ton peut marcher plus d'une heure entre les ruines de l'ancienne 
ville. On y reconnait, ainsi que sur la route de Tacuba et d'lztapa- 
lapan, combien Mexico, rebati par Cortez, est plus petit que l'etait 
Tenochtitlan sous le dernier des Montezuma. L'enorme grandeur du 
marche de Tlatelolco, dont on reconnait encore les limites, prouve 
combien la population de l'ancienne ville doit avoir ete considerable." 
Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 43. 

J 7 A common food with the lower classes was a glutinous scum 
found in the lakes, which they made into a sort of cake, having a savor 
not unlike cheese. (Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 92.)— 
[This " scum" consists in fact of the eggs of aquatic insects, with which 
cakes are made, in the same manner as with the spawn of fishes. Con- 
quista de Mejico (trad, de Vega), torn. i. p. 366.]* 

« 8 One is confirmed in this inference by comparing the two maps at 
the end of the first edition of Bullock's " Mexico;" one of the modern 

[* Little can be inferred, in regard to the difference of population, 
from the use of the ahuahutle, as these cakes are called, since it is still 
a favorite article of food at Tezcuco, where the eggs are found in 
great abundance, and sold in the market both in the prepared state 
and in lumps as collected at the edge of the lake. " The flies which 
produce these eggs are called by the Mexicans axayacatl, or water- 
face, — Corixa femorata, and Notonecta unifasciata, according to 
MM. Meneville and Virlet d'Aoust." Tylor, Anahuac, p. 156. — Ed.] 
Vol. II. 10 


A careful police provided for the health and cleanli- 
ness of the city. A thousand persons are said to have 

city, the other of the ancient, taken from Boturini's museum, and 
showing its regular arrangement of streets and canals ; as regular, 
indeed, as the squares on a chess-board.* 

* [The doubts so often excited by the descriptions of ancient Mexico 
in the accounts of the Spanish discoverers, like the similar incredulity 
formerly entertained in regard to the narrations of Herodotus, are 
dispelled by a critical investigation in conjunction with the results 
of modern explorations. Among recent travellers, Mr. Edward B. 
Tylor, whose learning and acumen have been displayed in various 
ethnological studies, is entitled to especial confidence. In company 
with Mr. Christy, the well-known collector, he examined the ploughed 
fields in the neighborhood of Mexico, making repeated trials whether 
it was possible to stand in any spot where no relic of the former 
population was within reach. " But this," he says, "we could not do. 
Everywhere the ground was full of unglazed pottery and obsidian." 
"We noticed by the sides of the road, and where ditches had been 
cut, numbers of old Mexican stone-floors covered with stucco. The 
earth has accumulated above them to the depth of two or three feet, 
so that their position is like that of the Roman pavements so often 
found in Europe ; and we may guess, from what we saw exposed, how 
great must be the number of such remains still hidden, and how vast 
a population must once have inhabited this plain, now almost de- 
serted." "When we left England," he adds, " we both doubted the 
accounts of the historians of the Conquest, believing that they had ex- 
aggerated the numbers of the population, and the size of the cities, 
from a natural desire to make the most of their victories, and to write 
as wonderful a history as they could, as historians are prone to do. 
But our examination of Mexican remains soon induced us to with- 
draw this accusation, and even made us inclined to blame the chroni- 
clers for having had no eyes for the wonderful things that surrounded 
them. I do not mean by this that we felt inclined to swallow the 
monstrous exaggerations of Solis and Gomara and other Spanish 
chroniclers, who seemed to think that it was as easy to say a thousand 
as a hundred, and that it sounded much better. But when this class of 
writers are set aside, and the more valuable authorities severely criti- 
cised, it does not seem to us that the history thus extracted from these 


been daily employed in watering and sweeping the 
streets, 19 so that a man — to borrow the language of 
an old Spaniard — "could walk through them with as 
little danger of soiling his feet as his hands." 20 The 
water, in a city washed on all sides by the salt floods, 
was extremely brackish. A liberal supply of the pure 
element, however, was brought from Chapoltepec, ''the 
grasshopper's hill," less than a league distant. It 
was brought through an earthen pipe, along a dike 
constructed for the purpose. That there might be no 
failure in so essential an article when repairs were 
going on, a double course of pipes was laid. In this 
way a column of water of the size of a man's body was 
conducted into the heart of the capital, where it fed 
the fountains and reservoirs of the principal mansions. 
Openings were made in the aqueduct as it crossed the 
bridges, and thus a supply was furnished to the canoes 
below, by means of which it was transported to all 
parts of the city. 21 

While Montezuma encouraged a taste for architec- 
tural magnificence in his nobles, he contributed his own 

10 Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. i. p. 274. 

80 " Era tan barrido y el suelo tan asentado y liso, que aunque la 
planta del pie fuera tan delicada como la de la mano no recibiera el 
pie detrimento ninguno en andar descalzo." Toribio, Hist, de los 
Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. 

21 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 108. — Carta del Lie. Zuazo, 
MS. — Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. 

sources is much less reliable than European history of the same period. 
There is, perhaps, no better way of expressing this opinion than to say 
that what we saw of Mexico tended generally to confirm Prescott's 
History of the Conquest, and but seldom to make his statements 
appear to us improbable." Anahuac, p. 147. — Ed.] 


share towards the embellishment of the city. It was 
in his reign that the famous calendar stone, weighing, 
probably, in its primitive state, nearly fifty tons, was 
transported from its native quarry, many leagues dis- 
tant, to the capital, where it still forms one of the most 
curious monuments of Aztec science. Indeed, when 
we reflect on the difficulty of hewing such a stupendous 
mass from its hard basaltic bed without the aid of iron 
tools, and that of transporting it such a distance across 
land and water without the help of animals, we may 
well feel admiration at the mechanical ingenuity and 
enterprise of the people who accomplished it. 22 

Not content with the spacious residence of his father, 
Montezuma erected another on a yet more magnificent 
scale. It occupied, as before mentioned, the ground 
partly covered by the private dwellings on one side of 
the plaza mayor of the modern city. This building, 
or, as it might more correctly be styled, pile of build- 
ings, spread over an extent of ground so vast that, as 
one of the Conquerors assures us, its terraced roof 
might have afforded ample room for thirty knights to 
run their courses in a regular tourney. 23 I have already 
noticed its interior decorations, its fanciful draperies, 
its roofs inlaid with cedar and other odoriferous woods, 
held together without a nail, and, probably, without a 

M These immense masses, according to Martyr, who gathered his 
information from eye-witnesses, were transported by means of long 
files of men, who dragged them with ropes over huge wooden rollers, 
(De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10.) It was the manner in which the 
Egyptians removed their enormous blocks of granite, as appears from 
numerous reliefs sculptured on their buildings. 

2 3 Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn iii. fol. 309. 



knowledge of the arch, 24 its numerous and spacious 
apartments, which Cortes, with enthusiastic hyperbole, 
does not hesitate to declare superior to anything of the 
kind in Spain. 25 

Adjoining the principal edifice were others, devoted 
to various objects. One was an armory, filled with the 
weapons and military dresses worn by the Aztecs, all 
kept in the most perfect order, ready for instant use. 
The emperor was himself very expert in the manage- 
ment of the maquahuitl, or Indian sword, and took 
great delight in witnessing athletic exercises and the 
mimic representation of war by his young nobility. 
Another building was used as a granary, and others as 
warehouses for the different articles of food and apparel 
contributed by the districts charged with the mainte- 
nance of the royal household. 

There were, also, edifices appropriated to objects of 
quite another kind. One of these was an immense 
aviary, in which birds of splendid plumage were assem- 
bled from all parts of the empire. Here was the scarlet 
cardinal, the golden pheasant, the endless parrot-tribe 
with their rainbow hues (the royal green predominant), 
and that miniature miracle of nature, the humming- 
bird, which delights to revel among the honeysuckle 

=4 ■" Ricos edificios," says the Licentiate Zuazo, speaking of tho 
buildings in Anahuac generally, " ecepto que no se halla alguno con 
boveda." (Carta, MS.) The writer made large and careful observa- 
tion, the year after the Conquest. His assertion, if it be received, 
will settle a question much mooted among antiquaries. 

"S " His residence within the city was so marvellous for its beauty 
and vastness that it seems to me almost impossible to describe it. I 
shall therefore say no more of it than that there is nothing like it in 
Spain." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. in. 


bowers of Mexico. 26 Three hundred attendants had 
charge of this aviary, who made themselves acquainted 
with the appropriate food of its inmates, oftentimes 
procured at great cost, and in the moulting season 
were careful to collect the beautiful plumage, which, 
with its many-colored tints, furnished the materials for 
the Aztec painter. 

A separate building was reserved for the fierce birds 
of prey ; the voracious vulture-tribes and eagles of 
enormous size, whose home was in the snowy solitudes 
of the Andes. No less than five hundred turkeys, the 
cheapest meat in Mexico, were allowed for the daily 
consumption of these tyrants of the feathered race. 

Adjoining this aviary was a menagerie of wild animals, 
gathered from the mountain forests, and even from the 
remote swamps of the tierra caliente. The resemblance 
of the different species to those in the Old World, with 
which no one of them, however, was identical, led to a 
perpetual confusion in the nomenclature of the Span- 
iards, as it has since done in that of better-instructed 
naturalists. The collection was still further swelled by a 
great number of reptiles and serpents remarkable for their 
size and venomous qualities, among which the Spaniards 

26 Herrera's account of these feathered insects, if one may so style 
them, shows the fanciful errors into which even men of science were 
led in regard to the new tribes of animals discovered in America: 
" There are some birds in the country of the size of butterflies, with 
long beaks, brilliant plumage, much esteemed for the curious works 
made of them. Like the bees, they live on flowers, and the dew 
which settles on them ; and when the rainy season is over, and the 
dry weather sets in, they fasten themselves to the trees by their beaks 
and soon die. But in the following year, when the new rains come, 
they come to life again" ! Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 21 


Ir 5 

beheld the fiery little animal " with the castanets in his 
tail, ' ' the terror of the American wilderness. 27 The ser- 
pents were confined in long cages lined with down or 
feathers, or in troughs of mud and water. The beasts and 
birds of prey were provided with apartments large enough 
to allow of their moving about, and secured by a strong 
lattice-work, through which light and air were freely 
admitted. The whole was placed under the charge of 
numerous keepers, who acquainted themselves with the 
habits of their prisoners and provided for their com- 
fort and cleanliness. With what deep interest would 
the enlightened naturalist of that day — an Oviedo, or 
a Martyr, for example — have surveyed this magnificent 
collection, in which the various tribes which roamed 
over the Western wilderness, the unknown races of an 
unknown world, were brought into one view ! How 
would they have delighted to study the peculiarities of 
these new species, compared with those of their own 
hemisphere, and thus have risen to some comprehen- 
sion of the general laws by which Nature acts in all 
her works ! The rude followers of Cortes did not 
trouble themselves with such refined speculations. 
They gazed on the spectacle with a vague curiosity 
not unmixed with awe; and, as they listened to the 
wild cries of the ferocious animals and the hissings of 
the serpents, they almost fancied themselves in the 
infernal regions. 28 

27 ,: Pues mas tenian," says the honest Captain Diaz, "en aquella 
maldita casa muchas Viboras, y Culebras emponconadas, que traen 
en las colas vnos que suenan como cascabeles ; estas son las peores 
Viboras de todas." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. 

28 " Digamos aora," exclaims Captain Diaz, ' las cosas infernales 


I must not omit to notice a strange collection of 
human monsters, dwarfs, and other unfortunate persons 
in whose organization Nature had capriciously deviated 
from her regular laws. Such hideous anomalies were 
regarded by the Aztecs as a suitable appendage of state. 
It is even said they were in some cases the result of 
artificial means, employed by unnatural parents de- 
sirous to secure a provision for their offspring by thus 
qualifying them for a place in the royal museum ! ** 

Extensive gardens were spread out around these 
buildings, filled with fragrant shrubs and flowers, and 
especially with medicinal plants. 30 No country has 
afforded more numerous species of these last than New 
Spain ; and their virtues were perfectly understood by 
the Aztecs, with whom medical botany may be said to 
have been studied as a science. Amidst this labyrinth 
of sweet-scented groves and shrubberies, fountains of 
pure water might be seen throwing up their sparkling 
jets and scattering refreshing dews over the blossoms. 
Ten large tanks, well stocked with fish, afforded a 

que hazian, quando bramauan los Tigres y Leones, y aullauan los 
Adiues y Zorros, y silbauan las Sierpes, era grima oirlo, y parecia 
infierno." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. 

2 5 Ibid., ubi supra. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 
111-113. — Carta del Lie. Zuazo, MS. — Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, 
MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap 
11, 46. 

3° Montezuma, according to Gomara, would allow no fruit-trees, 
considering them as unsuitable to pleasure-grounds. (Cronica, cap. 
75.) Toribio says, to the same effect, " Los Indios Senores no pro- 
curan arboles de fruta, porque se la traen sus vasailos, sino arboles de 
floresta, de donde cojan rosas, y adonde se crian aves, asi para gozar 
del canto, como para las tirar con Cerbatana, de la cual son grandes 
tiradores." Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6. 



retreat on their margins to various tribes of water- 
fowl, whose habits were so carefully consulted that 
some of these ponds were of salt water, as that which 
they most loved to frequent. A tessellated pavement 
of marble enclosed the ample basins, which were over- 
hung by light and fanciful pavilions, that admitted the 
perfumed breezes of the gardens, and offered a grateful 
shelter to the monarch and his mistresses in the sultry 
heats of summer. 31 

But the most luxurious residence of the Aztec mon- 
arch, at that season, was the royal hill of Chapoltepec, 
— a spot consecrated, moreover, by the ashes of his 
ancestors. It stood in a westerly direction from the 
capital, and its base was, in his day, washed by the 
waters of the Tezcuco. On its lofty crest of porphy- 
ritic rock there now stands the magnificent, though 
desolate, castle erected by the young viceroy Galvez 
at the close of the seventeenth century. 32 The view 
from its windows is one of the finest in the environs 
of Mexico. The landscape is not disfigured here, as 
in many other quarters, by the white and barren 
patches, so offensive to the sight ; but the eye wanders 
over an unbroken expanse of meadows and cultivated 
fields, waving with rich harvests of European grain. 
Montezuma's gardens stretched for miles around the 
base of the hill. Two statues of that monarch and his 
father, cut in bas-relief in the porphyry, were spared 

3' Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6. — Rel. Seg. 
de Cortes, ubi supra. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
cap. 11. 

3 2 [It is used at the present day for a military school. Conquista de 
Mejico (trad, de Vega), torn. i. p. 370.] 


till the middle of the last century ; 33 and the grounds 
are still shaded by gigantic cypresses, more than fifty 
feet in circumference, which were centuries old at the 
time of the Conquest. 34 The place is now a tangled 
wilderness of wild shrubs, where the myrtle mingles its 
dark, glossy leaves with the red berries and delicate 
foliage of the pepper-tree. Surely there is no spot 
better suited to awaken meditation on the past ; none 
where the traveller, as he sits under those stately 
cypresses gray with the moss of ages, can so fitly 
ponder on the sad destinies of the Indian races and the 
monarch who once held his courtly revels under the 
shadow of their branches. 

The domestic establishment of Montezuma was on 
the same scale of barbaric splendor as everything else 
about him. He could boast as many wives as are found 
in the harem of an Eastern sultan. 33 They were lodged 
in their own apartments, and provided with every 
accommodation, according to their ideas, for personal 
comfort and cleanliness. They passed their hours in 
the usual feminine employments of weaving and em- 
broidery, especially in the graceful feather-work, for 
which such rich materials were furnished by the royal 

33 Gomara, a competent critic, who saw them just before their de- 
struction, praises their execution. Gama, Descripcion, Parte 2, pp. 
S1-S3. — Also, ante, vol. i. p. 145. 

3* [Yet the whole of this beautiful grove was not spared. The axes 
of the Conquerors levelled such of the trees' as grew round the foun- 
tain of Chapoltepec and dropped their decayed leaves into its waters. 
The order of the municipality, dated February 28, 1527, is quoted by 
Alaman, Disertaciones historicas, torn. ii. p. 290.] 

35 No less than one thousand, if we believe Gomara ; who adds the 
edifying intelligence, " que huvo vez, que tuvo ciento i cincuenta pre- 
nadas d un tiempo 1" 



aviaries. They conducted themselves with strict de- 
corum, under the supervision of certain aged females, 
who acted in the respectable capacity of duennas, in 
the same manner as in the religious houses attached to 
the teocallis. The palace was supplied with numerous 
baths, and Montezuma set the example, in his own per- 
son, of frequent ablutions. He bathed at least once, 
and changed his dress four times, it is said, every day. 3 * 
He never put on the same apparel a second time, but 
gave it away to his attendants. Queen Elizabeth, with 
a similar taste for costume, showed a less princely spirit 
in hoarding her discarded suits. Her wardrobe was, 
probably, somewhat more costly than that of the Indian 

Besides his numerous female retinue, the halls and 
antechambers were filled with nobles in constant at- 
tendance on his person, who served also as a sort of 
body-guard. It had been usual for plebeians of merit 
to fill certain offices in the palace. But the haughty 
Montezuma refused to be waited upon by any but 
men of noble birth. They were not unfrequently the 
sons of the great chiefs, and remained as hostages in 
the absence of their fathers ; thus serving the double 
purpose of security and state. 37 

^"Vestiase todos los dias quatro man eras de vestiduras todas 
nuevas, y nunca mas se las vestia otra vez." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 114. 

37 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 67, 71, 76. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 113, 114. — 
Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — "A la puerta de 
la sala estaba vn patio mui grande en que habia cien aposentos de 25 
6 30 pies de largo cada vno sobre si en torno de dicho patio, e alii 
estaban los Sefiores principales aposentados como guardas del palacio 


His meals the emperor took alone. The well-matted 
floor of a large saloon was covered with hundreds of 
dishes. 38 Sometimes Montezuma himself, but more 
frequently his steward, indicated those which he pre- 
ferred, and which were kept hot by means of chafing- 
dishes. 39 The royal bill of fare comprehended, besides 
domestic animals, game from the distant forests, and 
fish which, the day before, was swimming in the Gulf 
of Mexico ! They were dressed in manifold ways, for 
the Aztec artistes, as we have already had occasion to 
notice, had penetrated deep into the mysteries of 
culinary science. 40 

The meats were served by the attendant nobles, who 
then resigned the office of waiting on the monarch to 
maidens selected for their personal grace and beauty. A 
screen of richly gilt and carved wood was drawn around 

ordinarias, y estos tales aposentos se Uaman galpones, los quales & la 
contina ocupan mas de 600 hombres, que jamas se quitaban de alii, 6 
cada vno de aquellos tenian mas de 30 servidores de manera que a lo 
menos nunca faltaban 3000 hombres de guerra en esta guarda cote- 
diana del palacio." (Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 46.) 
A very curious and full account of Montezuma's household is given 
by this author, as he gathered it from the Spaniards who saw it in its 
splendor. As Oviedo's history still remains in manuscript, I have 
transferred the chapter in the original Castilian to Appendix, Part 2, 
No. 10. 

3 8 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ubi supra. 

39 " Y porque la Tierra es fria trahian debaxo de cada plato y escu- 
dilla de manjar un braserico con brasa, porque no se enfriasse." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 113. 

40 Bernal Diaz has given us a few items of the royal carte. The first 
cover is rather a startling one, being a fricassee or stew of little chil- 
dren ! " carries de muchachos de foca edad." He admits, however, 
that this is somewhat apocryphal. Ibid., ubi supra. 


him, so as to conceal him from vulgar eyes during the 
repast. He was seated on a cushion, and the dinner 
was served on a low table covered with a delicate cotton 
cloth. The dishes were of the finest ware of Cholula. 
He had a service of gold, which was reserved for 
religious celebrations. Indeed, it would scarcely have 
comported with even his princely revenues to have 
used it on ordinary occasions, when his table-equipage 
was not allowed to appear a second time, but was given 
away to his attendants. The saloon was lighted by 
torches made of a resinous wood, which sent forth a 
sweet odor and, probably, not a little smoke, as they 
burned. At his meal, he was attended by five or six 
of his ancient counsellors, who stood at a respectful 
distance, answering his questions, and occasionally 
rejoiced by some of the viands with which he compli- 
mented them from his table. 

This course of solid dishes was succeeded by another 
of sweetmeats and pastry, for which the Aztec cooks, 
provided with the important requisites of maize-flour, 
eggs, and the rich sugar of the aloe, were famous. 
Two girls were occupied at the farther end of the 
apartment, during dinner, in preparing fine rolls and 
wafers, with which they garnished the board from time 
to time. The emperor took no other beverage than 
the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate, flavored with 
vanilla and other spices, and so prepared as to be re- 
duced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which 
gradually dissolved in the mouth. This beverage, if 
so it could be called, was served in golden goblets, 
with spoons of the same metal or of tortoise-shell 
finely wrought. The emperor was exceedingly fond 
Vol. II. — f 11 


of it, to judge from the quantity — no less than fifty 
jars or pitchers — prepared for his own daily consump- 
tion. 41 Two thousand more were allowed for that of 
his household. 42 

The general arrangement of the meal seems to have 
been not very unlike that of Europeans. But no 
prince in Europe could boast a dessert which could 
compare with that of the Aztec emperor. For it was 
gathered fresh from the most opposite climes ; and his 
board displayed the products of his own temperate 
region, and the luscious fruits of the tropics, plucked, 
the day previous, from the green groves of the tierra 
caliente, and transmitted with the speed of steam, by 
means of couriers, to the capital. It was as if some 
kind fairy should crown our banquets with the spicy 
products that but yesterday were growing in a sunny 
isle of the far-off Indian seas !* 

After the emperor's appetite was appeased, water was 
handed to him by the female attendants in a silver 
basin, in the same manner as had been done before 
commencing his meal ; for the Aztecs were as constant 
in their ablutions, at these times, as any nation of the 
East. Pipes were then brought, made of a varnished 

4* "Lo que y'o vi," says Diaz, speaking from his own observation, 
" que traian sobre cincuenta jarros grandes hechos de buen cacao con 
su espuma, y de lo que bebia." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. 

42 Ibid., ubi supra. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 113, 
114. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 11, 46. — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 67. 

* [This description, as Sefior Alaman observes, seems to have a 
tincture of romance, since many of the fruits now produced in such 
abundance in Mexico were unknown there previous to the Conquest. 
Conquista de Mejico, trad, de Vega, torn. i. p 373. — Ed.] 



and richly-gilt wood, from which he inhaled, some- 
times through the nose, at others through the mouth, 
the fumes of an intoxicating weed, "called tobacco" 43 
mingled with liquid amber. While this soothing pro- 
cess of fumigation was going on, the emperor enjoyed 
the exhibitions of his mountebanks and jugglers, of 
whom a regular corps was attached to the palace. No 
people, not even those of China or Hindostan, sur- 
passed the Aztecs in feats of agility and legerdemain. 44 

Sometimes he amused himself with his jester ; for 
the Indian monarch had his jesters, as well as his more 
refined brethren of Europe, at that day. Indeed, he 
used to say that more instruction was to be gathered 
from them than from wiser men, for they dared to tell 
the truth. At other times he witnessed the graceful 
dances of his women, or took delight in listening to 
music, — if the rude minstrelsy of the Mexicans de- 
serve that name, — accompanied by a chant, in slow 
and solemn cadence, celebrating the heroic deeds of 
great Aztec warriors, or of his own princely line. 

When he had sufficiently refreshed his spirits with 
these diversions, he composed himself to sleep, for in 
his siesta he was as regular as a Spaniard. On awaking, 
he gave audience to ambassadors from foreign states or 
his own tributary cities, or to such caciques as had suits 

43 "Tambien le ponian en la mesa tres canutos muy pintados, y 
dorados, y dentro traian liquidambar, rebuelto con vnas yervas que se 
dize tabaco." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. 

44 The feats of jugglers and tumblers were a favorite diversion with 
the Grand Khan of China, as Sir John Maundeville informs us. 
(Voiage and Travaille, chap. 22.) The Aztec mountebanks had such 
repute, that Cortes sent two of them to Rome to amuse his Holiness 
Clement VII. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. p. 186. 



to prefer to him. They were introduced by the young 
nobles in attendance, and, whatever might be their 
rank, unless of the blood royal, they were obliged to 
submit to the humiliation of shrouding their rich 
dresses under the coarse mantle of nequen, and enter- 
ing bare-footed, with downcast eyes, into the pres- 
ence. The emperor addressed few and brief remarks 
to the suitors, answering them generally by his secre- 
taries ; and the parties retired with the same rev- 
erential obeisance, taking care to keep their faces turned 
towards the monarch. Well might Cortes exclaim 
that no court, whether of the Grand Seignior or any 
other infidel, ever displayed so pompous and elaborate 
a ceremonial ! 4S 

Besides the crowd of retainers already noticed, the 
royal household was not complete without a host of 
artisans constantly employed in the erection or repair 
of buildings, besides a great number of jewellers and 
persons skilled in working metals, who found abundant 
demand for their trinkets among the dark-eyed beauties 
of the harem. The imperial mummers and jugglers 
were also very numerous, and the dancers belonging 
to the palace occupied a particular district of the city, 
appropriated exclusively to them. 

The maintenance of this little host, amounting to 
some thousands of individuals, involved a heavy ex- 
penditure, requiring accounts of a complicated and, to 
a simple people, it might well be, embarrassing nature. 
Everything, however, was conducted with perfect order; 

4S " Ninguno de los Soldanes, ni otro ningun senor infiel, de los que 
hasta agora se tiene noticia, no creo, que tantas, ni tales ceremonias 
en servicio tengan." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 115. 


and all the various receipts and disbursements were 
set down in the picture-writing of the country. The 
arithmetical characters were of a more refined and 
conventional sort than those for narrative purposes; 
and a separate apartment was filled with hieroglyphical 
legers, exhibiting a complete view of the economy of 
the palace. The care of all this was intrusted to a 
treasurer, who acted as a sort of major-domo in the 
household, having a general superintendence over all 
its concerns. This responsible office, on the arrival 
of the Spaniards, was in the hands of a trusty cacique 
named Tapia. 46 * 

Such is the picture of Montezuma's domestic estab- 
lishment and way of living, as delineated by the Con- 
querors and their immediate followers, who had the 
best means of information ; * 7 too highly colored, it may 
be, by the proneness to exaggerate, which was natural 
to those who first witnessed a spectacle so striking 
to the imagination, so new and unexpected. I have 
thought it best to present the full details, trivial though 
they may seem to the reader, as affording a curious 
picture of manners so superior in point of refinement 

46 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 91. — Carta del Lie. 
Zuazo, MS. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., ubi supra. — Toribio, 
Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. 
Lorenzana, pp. 110-115. — Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn, 
iii. fol. 306. 

47 If the historian will descend but a generation later for his au- 
thorities, he may find materials for as good a chapter as any in Sir 
John Maundeville or the Arabian Nights. 

* [The name, which is Spanish, not Aztec, was that given to him by 
the Conquerors, perhaps with some reference to one of their own 
number, Andres de Tapia. — Ed.] 



to those of the other aboriginal tribes on the North 
American continent. Nor are they, in fact, so trivial, 
when we reflect that in these details of private life we 
possess a surer measure of civilization than in those of 
a public nature. 

In surveying them we are strongly reminded of the 
civilization of the East ; not of that higher, intellectual 
kind which belonged to the more polished Arabs and 
the Persians, but that semi-civilization which has dis- 
tinguished, for example, the Tartar races, among whom 
art, and even science, have made, indeed, some pro- 
gress in their adaptation to material wants and sensual 
gratification, but little in reference to the higher and 
more ennobling interests of humanity. It is character- 
istic of such a people to find a puerile pleasure in a 
dazzling and ostentatious pageantry ; to mistake show 
for substance, vain pomp for power ; to hedge round 
the throne itself with a barren and burdensome cere- 
monial, the counterfeit of real majesty. 

Even this, however, was an advance in refinement, 
compared with the rude manners of the earlier Aztecs. 
The change may, doubtless, be referred in some degree 
to the personal influence of Montezuma. In his younger 
days he had tempered the fierce habits of the soldier 
with the milder profession of religion. In later life he 
had withdrawn himself still more from the brutalizing 
occupations of war, and his manners acquired a refine- 
ment, tinctured, it may be added, with an effeminacy, 
unknown to his martial predecessors. 

The condition of the empire, too, under his reign, 
was favorable to this change. The dismemberment 
of the Tezcucan kingdom on the death of the great 



Nezahualpilli had left the Aztec monarchy without a 
rival ; and it soon spread its colossal arms over the 
farthest limits of Anahuac. The aspiring mind of 
Montezuma rose with the acquisition of wealth and 
power; and he displayed the consciousness of new 
importance by the assumption of unprecedented state. 
He affected a reserve unknown to his predecessors, 
withdrew his person from the vulgar eye, and fenced 
himself round with an elaborate and courtly etiquette. 
When he went abroad, it was in state, on some public 
occasion, usually to the great temple, to take part in 
the religious services ; and as he passed along he ex- 
acted from his people, as we have seen, the homage 
of an adulation worthy of an Oriental despot. 48 His 
haughty demeanor touched the pride of his more 
potent vassals, particularly those who, at a distance, 
felt themselves nearly independent of his authority. 
His exactions, demanded by the profuse expenditure 
of his palace, scattered broad-cast the seeds of dis- 
content ; and, while the empire seemed towering in its 
most palmy and prosperous state, the canker had eaten 
deepest into its heart. 

48 " Referre in tanto rege piget superbam mutationem vestis, et 
desideratas humi jacentium adulationes." (Livy, Hist., lib. 9, cap. 
18.) The remarks of the Roman historian in reference to Alexander, 
after he was infected by the manners of Persia, fit equally well the 
Aztec emperor. 




Four days had elapsed since the Spaniards made 
their entry into Mexico. Whatever schemes their 
commander may have revolved in his mind, he felt 
that he could determine on no plan of operations till 
he had seen more of the capital and ascertained by his 
own inspection the nature of its resources. He accord- 
ingly, as was observed at the close of the last Book, 
sent to Montezuma, asking permission to visit the great 
teocalli, and some other places in the city. 

The friendly monarch consented without difficulty. 
He even prepared to go in person to the great temple 
to receive his guests there, — it may be, to shield the 
shrine of his tutelar deity from any attempted profana- 
tion. He was acquainted, as we have already seen, 
with the proceedings of the Spaniards on similar oc- 
casions in the course of their march. Cortes put him- 
self at the head of his little corps of cavalry, and 
nearly all the Spanish foot, as usual, and followed the 
caciques sent by Montezuma to guide him. They pro- 
posed first to conduct him to the great market of 
Tlatelolco, in the western part of the city. 

On the way, the Spaniards were struck, in the same 



manner as they had been on entering the capital, with 
the appearance of the inhabitants, and their great supe- 
riority in the style and quality of their dress over the 
people of .the lower countries. 1 The Hlmatli, or cloak 
thrown over the shoulders and tied round the neck, 
made of cotton of different degrees of fineness, ac- 
cording to the condition of the wearer, and the ample 
sash around the loins, were often wrought in rich and 
elegant figures and edged with a deep fringe or tassel. 
As the weather was now growing cool, mantles of fur 
or of the gorgeous feather-work were sometimes sub- 
stituted. The latter combined the advantage of great 
warmth with beauty. 2 The Mexicans had also the art 
of spinning a fine thread of the hair of the rabbit and 
other animals, which they wove into a delicate web 
that took a permanent dye. 

The women, as in other parts of the country, seemed 
to go about as freely as the men. They wore several 
skirts or petticoats of different lengths, with highly- 
ornamented borders, and sometimes over them loose 
flowing robes, which reached to the ankles. These, 
also, were made of cotton, for the wealthier classes, 

1 " La Gente de esta Ciudad es de mas manera y primor en su ves- 
tido, y servicio, que no la otra de estas otras Provincias, y Ciudades ■ 
porque como alii estaba siempre este Senor Muteczuma, y todos los 
Senores sus Vasallos ocurrian siempre a la Ciudad, habia en ella mas 
manera, y policia en todas las cosas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. log. 

3 Zuazo, speaking of the beauty and warmth of this national fabric, 
says, " Vi muchas mantas de & dos haces labradas de plumas de 
papos de aves tan suaves, que trayendo la mano por encima a pelo y 
& pospelo, no era mas que vna manta zebellina mui bien adobada : 
hice pesar vna dellas ; no peso mas de seis onzas. Dicen que en el 
tiempo del Ynbierno una abasta para encima de la camisa sin otro 
cobertor ni mas ropa encima de la cama." Carta, MS. 



of a fine texture, prettily embroidered. 3 No veils were 
worn here, as in some other parts of Anahuac, where 
they were made of the aloe thread, or of the light web 
of hair, above noticed. The Aztec women had their 
faces exposed ; and their dark, raven tresses floated 
luxuriantly over their shoulders, revealing features 
which, although of a dusky or rather cinnamon hue, 
were not unfrequently pleasing, while touched with 
the serious, even sad expression characteristic of the 
national physiognomy. 4 

On drawing near to the tianguez, or great market, 
the Spaniards were astonished at the throng of people 
pressing towards it, and on entering the place their 
surprise was still further heightened by the sight of the 
multitudes assembled there, and the dimensions of the 
enclosure, thrice as large as the celebrated square of 
Salamanca. 5 Here were met together traders from all 
parts, with the products and manufactures peculiar to 
their countries ; the goldsmiths of Azcapozalco ; the 
potters and jewellers of Cholula, the painters of Tez- 
cuco, the stone-cutters of Tenajocan, the hunters of 
Xilotepec, the fishermen of Cuitlahuac, the fruiterers 
of the warm countries, the mat- and chair-makers of 
Quauhtitlan, and the florists of Xochimilco, — all busily 
engaged in recommending their respective wares and 
in chaffering with purchasers. 6 

3 " Sono lunghe & large, lauorate di bellisimi, & molto gentili lauon 
sparsi per esse, co le loro frangie, 6 orletti ben lauorati che comparis- 
cono benissimo." Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. 
fol. 305. 

4 Ibid., fol. 305. 

5 Ibid., fol. 309. 

6 " Quivi concorrevano i Pentolai, ed i Giojellieri di Cholulla, gli 


I3 1 

The market-place was surrounded by deep porticoes, 
and the several articles had each its own quarter allotted 
to it. Here might be seen cotton piled up in bales, or 
manufactured into dresses and articles of domestic use, 
as tapestry, curtains, coverlets, and the like. The 
richly stained and nice fabrics reminded Cortes of the 
alcayceria, or silk-market, of Granada. There was the 
quarter assigned to the goldsmiths, where the pur- 
chaser might find various articles of ornament or use 
formed of the precious metals, or curious toys, such as 
we have already had occasion to notice, made in imi- 
tation of birds and fishes, with scales and feathers 
alternately of gold and silver, and with movable heads 
and bodies. These fantastic little trinkets were often 
garnished with precious stones, and showed a patient, 
puerile ingenuity in the manufacture, like that of the 
Chinese. 7 

Orefici d' Azcapozalco, i Pittori di Tezcuco.gli Scarpellini di Tenajo- 
can, i Cacciatori di Xilotepec, i Pescatori di Cuitlahuac, i fruttajuoli 
de' paesi caldi, gli artefici di stuoje, e di scranne di Quauhtitlan ed i 
coltivatori de' fiori di Xochimilco." Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, 
torn. ii. p. 165. 

7 " Oro y plata, piedras de valor, con otros plumajes e argenterias 
maravillosas, y con tanto primor fabricadas que excede todo ingenio 
humano para comprenderlas y alcanzarlas." (Carta del Lie. Zuazo, 
MS.) The licentiate then enumerates several of these elegant pieces 
of mechanism. Cortes is not less emphatic in his admiration : " Con- 
trahechas de oro, y plata, y piedras y plumas, tan al natural lo de Oro, 
y Plata, que no ha Platero en el Mundo que mejor lo hiciesse, y lo de 
las Piedras, que no baste juicio comprehender con que Instrumentos 
se hiciesse tan perfecto, y lo de Pluma, que ni de Cera, ni en ningun 
broslado se podria hacer tan maravillosamente." (Rel. Seg., ap. Lo- 
renzana, p. no.) Peter Martyr, a less prejudiced critic than Cortes, 
who saw and examined many of these golden trinkets afterwards 
in Castile, bears the same testimony to the exquisite character of the 



In an adjoining quarter were collected specimens 
of pottery coarse and fine, vases of wood elaborately 
carved, varnished or gilt, of curious and sometimes 
graceful forms. There were also hatchets made of 
copper alloyed with tin, the substitute, and, as it 
proved, not a bad one, for iron. The soldier found 
here all the implements of his trade : the casque fash- 
ioned into the head of some wild animal, with its grin- 
ning defences of teeth, and bristling crest dyed with 
the rich tint of the cochineal ; 8 the escaufiil, or quilted 
doublet of cotton, the rich surcoat of feather-mail, 
and weapons of all sorts, copper-headed lances and 
arrows, and the broad maquahuitl, the Mexican sword, 
with its sharp blades of itztli. Here were razors and 
mirrors of this same hard and polished mineral, which 
served so many of the purposes of steel with the Aztecs. 5 
In the square were also to be found booths occupied by 
barbers, who used these same razors in their vocation. 
For the Mexicans, contrary to the popular and erro- 
neous notions respecting the aborigines of the New 
World, had beards, though scanty ones. Other shops 
or booths were tenanted by apothecaries, well provided 
with drugs, roots, and different medicinal preparations. 

workmanship, which, he says, far surpassed the value of the material. 
De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10. 

8 Herrera makes the unauthorized assertion, repeated by Solis, that 
the Mexicans were unacquainted with the value of the cochineal till 
it was taught them by the Spaniards. (Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 4, 
lib. 8, cap. 11.) The natives, on the contrary, took infinite pains to 
rear the insect on plantations of the cactus, and it formed one of the 
staple tributes to the crown from certain districts. See the tribute - 
rolls, ap. Lorenzana, Nos. 23, 24. — Hernandez, Hist. Plantarum, lib. 
6, cap. 116. — Also, Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. i. p. 114, nota, 

9 Ante, vol. i. p. 143. 


1 33 

In other places, again, blank books or maps for the 
hieroglyphical picture-writing were to be seen, folded 
together like fans, and made of cotton, skins, or 
more commonly the fibres of the agave, the Aztec 

Under some of the porticoes they saw hides raw and 
dressed, and various articles for domestic or personal 
use made of the leather. Animals, both wild and tame, 
were offered for sale, and near them, perhaps, a gang 
of slaves, with collars round their necks, intimating 
they were likewise on sale, — a spectacle unhappily not 
confined to the barbarian markets of Mexico, though 
the evils of their condition were aggravated there by 
the consciousness that a life of degradation might be 
consummated at any moment by the dreadful doom of 

The heavier materials for building, as stone, lime, 
timber, were considered too bulky to be allowed a place 
in the square, and were deposited in the adjacent 
streets on the borders of the canals. It would be 
tedious to enumerate all the various articles, whether 
for luxury or daily use, which were collected from all 
quarters in this vast bazaar. I must not omit to men- 
tion, however, the display of provisions, one of the 
most attractive features of the tianguez ; meats of all 
kinds, domestic poultry, game from the neighboring 
mountains, fish from the lakes and streams, fruits in all 
the delicious abundance of these temperate regions, 
green vegetables, and the unfailing maize. There was 
many a viand, too, ready dressed, which sent up its 
savory steams provoking the appetite of the idle pas- 
senger ; pastry, bread of the Indian corn, cakes, and 
Vol. II. 12 



confectionery. 10 Along with these were to be seen 
cooling or stimulating beverages, the spicy foaming 
chocolatl, with its delicate aroma of vanilla, and the in- 
ebriating pulque, the fermented juice of the aloe. All 
these commodities, and every stall and portico, were 
set out, or rather smothered, with flowers, showing — 
on a much greater scale, indeed — a taste similar to that 
displayed in the markets of modern Mexico. Flowers 
seem to be the spontaneous growth of this luxuriant 
soil ; which, instead of noxious weeds, as in other re- 
gions, is ever ready, without the aid of man, to cover 
up its nakedness with this rich and variegated livery of 

I will spare the reader the repetition of all the par- 
ticulars enumerated by the bewildered Spaniards, which 
are of some interest as evincing the various mechanical 
skill and the polished wants, resembling those of a re- 
fined community rather than of a nation of savages. 
It was the material civilization, which belongs neither 
to the one nor the other. The Aztec had plainly 
reached that middle station, as far above the rude races 

10 Zuazo, who seems to have been nice in these matters, concludes 
a paragraph of dainties with the following tribute to the Aztec cuisine : 
" Vendense huebos asados, crudos, en tortilla, e diversidad de guisa- 
dos que se suelen guisar, con otras cazuelas y pasteles, que en el mal 
cocinado de Medina, ni en otros lugares de Tlamencos dicen que hai 
ni se pueden hallar tales ^rujamanes." Carta, MS. 

11 Ample details — many more than I have thought it necessary to 
give — of the Aztec market of Tlatelolco may be found in the writings 
of all the old Spaniards who visited the capital. Among others, see 
Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 103-105. — Toribio, Hist, de 
los Indies, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — Carta del Lie. Zuazo, MS. — Rel. 
d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. 
de la Conquista, cap. 92. 


J 35 

of the New World as it was below the cultivated com- 
munities of the Old. 

As to the numbers assembled in the market, the esti- 
mates differ, as usual. The Spaniards often visited 
the place, and no one states the amount at less than 
forty thousand ! Some carry it much higher. 12 With- 
out relying too much on the arithmetic of the Con- 
querors, it is certain that on this occasion, which 
occurred every fifth day, the city swarmed with a 
motley crowd of strangers, not only from the vicinity, 
but from many leagues around ; the causeways were 
thronged, and the lake was darkened by canoes filled 
with traders flocking to the great tianguez. It resem- 
bled, indeed, the periodical fairs in Europe, not as they 
exist now, but as they existed in the Middle Ages, 
when, from the difficulties of intercommunication, they 
served as the great central marts for commercial inter- 
course, exercising a most important and salutary influ- 
ence on the community. 

The exchanges were conducted partly by barter, but 
more usually in the currency of the country. This 
consisted of bits of tin stamped with a character like 
a "f , bags of cacao, the value of which was regulated 

« Zuazo raises it to 80,000! (Carta, MS.) Cortes to 60,000. (Rel. 
Seg., ubi supra.) The most modest computation is that of the 
" Anonymous Conqueror," who says from 40,000 to 50,000. " Et il 
giorno del mercato, che si fa di cinque in cinque giorni, vi sono da 
quaranta 6 cinquanta mila persone" (Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. 
Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 309) ; a confirmation, by the by, of the supposi- 
tion that the estimated population of the capital, found in the Italian 
version of this author, is a misprint. (See the preceding chapter, note 
13.) He would hardly have crowded an amount equal to the whole 
of it into the market. 


by their size, and, lastly, quills filled with gold dust. 13 
Gold was part of the regular currency, it seems, in 
both hemispheres. In their dealings it is singular that 
they should have had no knowledge of scales and 
weights. The quantity was determined by measure 
and number. 14 

The most perfect order reigned throughout this vast 
assembly. Officers patrolled the square, whose busi- 
ness it was to keep the peace, to collect the duties im- 
posed on the different articles of merchandise, to see 
that no false measures or fraud of any kind were used, 
and to bring offenders at once to justice. A court of 
twelve judges sat in one part of the tianguez, clothed 
with those ample and summary powers which in despotic 
countries are often delegated even to petty tribunals. 
The extreme severity with which they exercised these 
powers, in more than one instance, proves that they 
were not a dead letter. 15 

The tianguez of Mexico was naturally an object of 
great interest, as well as wonder, to the Spaniards. For 
in it they saw converged into one focus, as it were, all 
the rays of civilization scattered throughout the land. 
Here they beheld the various evidences of mechanical 
skill, of domestic industry, the multiplied resources, 

•3 [From the description of the coin, Ramirez infers that it was not 
stamped, but cut, in the form mentioned in the text. This is con- 
firmed by one or two specimens of the kind still preserved in the 
National Museum at Mexico. Ramirez, Notas y Esclarecimientos, 
p. 102.] 

*■* Ante, vol. i. p. 148. 

r 5 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. — Rel. Seg., ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 104. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10. 
— Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, loc. cit. 



of whatever kind, within the compass of the natives. 
It could not fail to impress them with high ideas of the 
magnitude of these resources, as well as of the com- 
mercial activity and social subordination by which the 
whole community was knit together ; and their admi- 
ration is fully evinced by the minuteness and energy 
of their descriptions. 16 

From this bustling scene the Spaniards took their 
way to the great teocalli, in the neighborhood of their 
own quarters. It covered, with the subordinate edifices, 
as the reader has already seen, the large tract of ground 
now occupied by the cathedral, part of the market- 
place, and some of the adjoining streets. 17 It was the 
spot which had been consecrated to the same object, 
probably, ever since the foundation of the city. The 
present building, however, was of no great antiquity, 
having been constructed by Ahuitzotl, who celebrated 
its dedication, in i486, by that hecatomb of victims of 
which such incredible reports are to be found in the 
chronicles. 18 

It stood in the midst of a vast area, encompassed by 
a wall of stone and lime, about eight feet high, orna- 
mented on the outer side by figures of serpents, raised 

16 " There were amongst us," says Diaz, " soldiers who had been 
in many parts of the world, — in Constantinople and in Rome and 
through all Italy, — and who said that a market-place so large, so well 
ordered and regulated, and so filled with people, they had never seen." 
Hist, de la Conquista, loc. cit. 

*7 Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. p. 27. 

18 Ante, vol. i. p. 83. — [A minute account of the site and extent of the 
ground covered by the great temple is given by Alaman (Disertaciones 
histcricas, torn. ii. pp. 246-248). The Mexicans are largely indebted 
to this eminent scholar for his elaborate researches into the topography 
and antiquities of the Aztec capital.] 


in relief, which gave it the name of the coatefiantli, or 
" wall of serpents." This emblem was a common one 
in the sacred sculpture of Anahuac, as well as of Egypt. 
The wall, which was quadrangular, was pierced by 
huge battlemented gateways, opening on the four prin- 
cipal streets of the capital. Over each of the gates was 
a kind of arsenal, filled with arms and warlike gear ; 
and, if we may credit the report of the Conquerors, 
there were barracks adjoining, garrisoned by ten thou- 
sand soldiers, who served as a sort of military police 
for the capital, supplying the emperor with a strong 
arm in case of tumult or sedition. 19 

The teocalli itself was a solid pyramidal structure 
of earth and pebbles, coated on the outside with hewn 
stones, probably of the light, porous kind employed in 
the buildings of the city. 20 It was probably square, 
with its sides facing the cardinal points. 21 It was 

'9 " Et di phi v" hauea vna guarnigione di dieci mila huomini di 
guerra, tutti eletti per huomini valenti, & questi accompagnauano & 
guardauano la sua persona, & quando si facea qualche rumore 6 
ribellione nella citta 6 nel paese circumuicino, andauano questi, 6 
parte d' essi per Capitani." Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, 
torn. iii. fol. 309. 

20 Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 40. — On paving the square, 
not long ago, round the modern cathedral, there were found large 
blocks of sculptured stone buried between thirty and forty feet deep 
in the ground. Ibid., loc. cit. 

21 Clavigero calls it oblong, on the alleged authority of the "Anony- 
mous Conqueror." (Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. p. 27, nota.) But the 
latter says not a word of the shape, and his contemptible wood-cut is 
too plainly destitute of all proportion to furnish an inference of any 
kind. (Comp. Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol. 
307.) Torquemada and Gomara both say it was square (Monarch. 
Ind , Kb. 8, cap. 11 ; — Cronica, cap. 80) ; and Toribio de Benavente, 
speaking generally of the Mexican temples, says they had that form. 
Hist, de los Ind., MS., Parte 1, cap. 12. 



divided into five bodies or stories, each one receding 
so as to be of smaller dimensions than that immediately 
below it, — the usual form of the Aztec teocallis, as 
already described, and bearing obvious resemblance to 
some of the primitive pyramidal structures in the Old 
World. 22 The ascent was by a flight of steps on the 
outside, which reached to the narrow terrace or plat- 
form at the base of the second story, passing quite 
round the building, when a second stairway conducted 
to a similar landing at the base of the third. The 
breadth of this walk was just so much space as was 
left by the retreating story next above it. From this 
construction the visitor was obliged to pass round the 
whole edifice four times in order to reach the top. 
This had a most imposing effect in the religious cere- 
monials, when the pompous procession of priests with 
their wild minstrelsy came sweeping round the huge 
sides of the pyramid, as they rose higher and higher, 
in the presence of gazing multitudes, towards the 

The dimensions of the temple cannot be given with 
any certainty. The Conquerors judged by the eye, 
rarely troubling themselves with anything like an ac- 
curate measurement. It was, probably, not much less 
than three hundred feet square at the base ; 23 and, 

32 See Appendix, Part 1. 

'3 Clavigero, calling it oblong, adopts Torquemada's estimate — not 
Sahagun's, as he pretends, which he never saw, and who gives no 
measurement of the building — for the length, and Gomara's estimate, 
which is somewhat less, for the breadth. (Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. 
p. 28, nota.) As both his authorities make the building square, this 
spirit of accommodation is whimsical enough. Toribio, who did 
measure a teocalli of the usual construction in the town of Tenayuca ; 


as the Spaniards counted a hundred and fourteen 
steps, was, probably, less than one hundred feet in 
height. 24 

When Cortes arrived before the teocalli, he found two 
priests and several caciques commissioned by Monte- 
zuma to save him the fatigue of the ascent by bearing 
him on their shoulders, in the same manner as had 
been done to the emperor. But the general declined 
the compliment, preferring to march up at the head of 
his men. On reaching the summit, they found it a 
vast area, paved with broad flat stones. The first ob- 
ject that met their view was a large block of jasper, the 
peculiar shape of which showed it was the stone on 
which the bodies of the unhappy victims were stretched 
for sacrifice. Its convex surface, by raising the breast, 
enabled the priest to perform his diabolical task more 
easily, of removing the heart. At the other end of the 

found it to be forty brasas, or two hundred and forty feet, square. 
(Hist, de los Ind., MS., Parte i, cap. 12.) The great temple of 
Mexico was undoubtedly larger, and, in the want of better authorities, 
one may accept Torquemada, who makes it a little more than three 
hundred and sixty Toledan, equal to three hundred and eight French 
feet, square. (Monarch. Ind., lib. 8, cap. 11.) How can M. de 
Humboldt speak of the " great concurrence of testimony" in regard to 
the dimensions of the temple? (Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 41.) No 
two authorities agree. 

2 4 Bernal Diaz says he counted one hundred and fourteen steps. 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 92.) Toribio says that more than one 
person who had numbered them told him they exceeded a hundred. 
(Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.) The steps could hardly 
have been less than eight or ten inches high, each ; Clavigero assumes 
that they were a foot, and that the building, therefore, was a hundred 
and fourteen feet high, precisely. (Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. pp. 28, 
29.) It is seldom safe to use anything stronger than probably in 



area were two towers or sanctuaries, consisting of three 
stories, the lower one of stone and stucco, the two 
upper of wood elaborately carved. In the lower division 
stood the images of their gods ; the apartments above 
were filled with utensils for their religious services, and 
with the ashes of some of their Aztec princes, who had 
fancied this airy sepulchre. Before each sanctuary stood 
an altar, with that undying fire upon it, the extinction 
of which boded as much evil to the empire as that of 
the Vestal flame would have done in ancient Rome. 
Here, also, was the huge cylindrical drum made of 
serpents' skins, and struck only on extraordinary oc- 
casions, when it sent forth a melancholy sound that 
might be heard for miles, — a sound of woe in after- 
times to the Spaniards. 

Montezuma, attended by the high-priest, came for- 
ward to receive Cortes as he mounted the area. " You 
are weary, Malinche," said he to him, "with climbing 
up our great temple. ' ' But Cortes, with a politic vaunt, 
assured him "the Spaniards were never weary' ' ! Then, 
taking him by the hand, the emperor pointed out the 
localities of the neighborhood. The temple on which 
they stood, rising high above all other edifices in the 
capital, afforded the most elevated as well as central 
point of view. Below them, the city lay spread out 
like a map, with its streets and canals intersecting each 
other at right angles, its terraced roofs blooming like 
so many parterres of flowers. Every place seemed alive 
with business and bustle ; canoes were glancing up and 
down the canals, the streets were crowded with people in 
their gay, picturesque costume, while from the market- 
place they had so lately left a confused hum of many 


sounds and voices rose upon the air. 23 They could 
distinctly trace the symmetrical plan of the city, with 
its principal avenues issuing, as it were, from the four 
gates of the coatepantli and connecting themselves with 
the causeways, which formed the grand entrances to 
the capital. This regular and beautiful arrangement 
was imitated in many of the inferior towns, where the 
great roads converged towards the chief teocalli, or 
cathedral, as to a common focus. 26 They could discern 
the insular position of the metropolis, bathed on all 
sides by the salt floods of the Tezcuco, and in the dis- 
tance the clear fresh waters of the Chalco ; far beyond 
stretched a wide prospect of fields and waving woods, 
with the burnished walls of many a lofty temple rising 
high above the trees and crowning the distant hill- 
tops. 27 The view reached in an unbroken line to the 
very base of the circular range of mountains, whose 

2 5 " Tornamos a ver la gran placa, y la multitud de gente que en 
ella auia, vnos comprado, y otros vendiendo, que solamente el rumor, 
y zumbido de las vozes, y palabras que alii auia, sonaua mas que de 
vna legua ! " Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 92. 

=6 " Y por honrar mas sus templos sacaban los caminos muy de- 
rechos por cordel de una y de dos leguas que era cosa harto de ver, 
desde lo Alto del principal templo, como venian de todos los pueblos 
menores y barrios ; salian los caminos muy derechos y iban A dar al 
patio de los teocallis." Toribio, Hist, deloslndios, MS., Parte i,cap. 12. 

2 7 " No se contentaba el Demonio con los [Teucales] ya dichos, sino 
que en cada pueblo, en cada barrio, y a cuarto de legua, tenian otros 
patios pequefios adonde habia tres 6 cuatro teocallis, y en algunos 
mas, en otras partes solo uno, y en cada Mogote 6 Cerrejon uno 6 
dos, y por los caminos y entre los Maizales, habia otros muchos pe- 
quefios, y todos estaban blancos y encalaclos, que parecian y abulta- 
ban mucho, que en la tierra bien poblada parecia que todo estaba 
lleno de casas, en especial de los patios del Demonio, que eran muy 
de ver." Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., ubi supra. 



frosty peaks glittered as if touched with fire in the 
morning ray ; while long, dark wreaths of vapor, roll- 
ing up from the hoary head of Popocatepetl, told that 
the destroying element was, indeed, at work in the 
bosom of the beautiful Valley. 

Cortes was filled with admiration at this grand and 
glorious spectacle, and gave utterance to his feelings in 
animated language to the emperor, the lord of these 
flourishing domains. His thoughts, however, soon took 
another direction ; and, turning to Father Olmedo, 
who stood by his side, he suggested that the area would 
afford a most conspicuous position for the Christian 
Cross, if Montezuma would but allow it to be planted 
there. But the discreet ecclesiastic, with the good 
sense which on these occasions seems to have been so 
lamentably deficient in his commander, reminded him 
that such a request, at present, would be exceedingly 
ill timed, as the Indian monarch had shown no dispo- 
sitions as yet favorable to Christianity. 28 

Cortes then requested Montezuma to allow him to 
enter the sanctuaries and behold the shrines of his 
gods. To this the latter, after a short conference with 
the priests, assented, and conducted the Spaniards into 
the building. They found themselves in a spacious 
apartment incrusted on the sides with stucco, on which 
various figures were sculptured, representing the Mex- 
ican calendar, perhaps, or the priestly ritual. At one 
end of the saloon was a recess with a roof of timber 
richly carved and gilt. Before the altar in this sanc- 
tuary stood the colossal image of Huitzilopochtli, the 
tutelary deity and war-god of the Aztecs. His coun- 

23 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 


tenance was distorted into hideous lineaments of sym- 
bolical import. In his right hand he wielded a bow, 
and in his left a bunch of golden arrows, which a mystic 
legend had connected with the victories of his people. 
The huge folds of a serpent, consisting of pearls and 
precious stones, were coiled round his waist, and the 
same rich materials were profusely sprinkled over his 
person. On his left foot were the delicate feathers of 
the humming-bird, which, singularly enough, gave its 
name to the dread deity. 29 The most conspicuous orna- 
ment was a chain of gold and silver hearts alternate, 
suspended round his neck, emblematical of the sacri- 
fice in which he most delighted. A more unequivocal 
evidence of this was afforded by three human hearts 
smoking and almost palpitating, as if recently torn 
from the victims, and now lying on the altar before 
him ! 

The adjoining sanctuary was dedicated to a milder 
deity. This was Tezcatlipoca, next in honor to that 
invisible Being, the Supreme God, who was represented 
by no image and confined by no temple. It was Tez- 
catlipoca who created the world and watched over it 
with a providential care. He was represented as a 
young man, and his image, of polished black stone, 
was richly garnished with gold plates and ornaments, 
among which a shield burnished like a mirror was the 
most characteristic emblem, as in it he saw reflected all 
the doings of the world. But the homage to this god 
was not always of a more refined or merciful character 
than that paid to his carnivorous brother ; for five bleed- 
ing hearts were also seen in a golden platter on his altar. 

2 9 Ante, vol. i. p. 59. 



The walls of both these chapels were stained with 
human gore. "The stench was more intolerable," 
exclaims Diaz, " than that of the slaughter-houses in 
Castile ! ' ' And the frantic forms of the priests, with 
their dark robes clotted with blood, as they flitted to 
and fro, seemed to the Spaniards to be those of the very 
ministers of Satan ! 3 ° 

From this foul abode they gladly escaped into the 
open air; when Cortes, turning to Montezuma, said, 
with a smile, " I do not comprehend how a great and 
wise prince, like you, can put faith in such evil spirits 
as these idols, the representatives of the Devil ! If 
you will but permit us to erect here the true Cross, and 
place the images of the blessed Virgin and her Son in 
your sanctuaries, you will soon see how your false gods 
will shrink before them !" 

Montezuma was greatly shocked at this sacrilegious 
address. "These are the gods," he answered, "who 
have led the Aztecs on to victory since they were a 
nation, and who send the seed-time and harvest in 
their seasons. Had I thought you would have offered 
them this outrage, I would not have admitted you into 
their presence. ' ' 

Cortes, after some expressions of concern at having 
wounded the feelings of the emperor, took his leave. 
Montezuma remained, saying that he must expiate, if 

30 .< y tenia en las paredes tantas costras de sangre, y el suelo todo 
bafiado dello, que en los mataderos de Castilla no aula tanto hedor." 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, pp. 105, 106. — Carta del Lie. Zuazo, MS. — See, also, 
for notices of these deities, Sahagun, lib. 3, cap. 1, et seq. — Torque- 
mada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 6, cap. 20, 21. — Acosta, lib. 5, cap. 9. 
Vol. II. — G 13 


possible, the crime of exposing the shrines of the 
divinities to such profanation by the strangers. 31 

On descending to the court, the Spaniards took a 
leisurely survey of the other edifices in the enclosure. 
The area was protected by a smooth stone pavement, 
so polished, indeed, that it was with difficulty the 
horses could keep their legs. There were several other 
teocallis, built generally on the model of the great one, 
though of much inferior size, dedicated to the different 
Aztec deities. 32 On their summits were the altars 
crowned with perpetual flames, which, with those on 
the numerous temples in other quarters of the capital, 
shed a brilliant illumination over its streets through the 
long nights. 33 

Among the teocallis in the enclosure was one conse- 
crated to Quetzalcoatl, circular in its form, and having 
an entrance in imitation of a dragon's mouth, bristling 
with sharp fangs and dropping with blood. As the 
Spaniards cast a furtive glance into the throat of this 
horrible monster, they saw collected there implements 

3 1 Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra. — Whoever examines Cortes' great 
letter to Charles V. will be surprised to find it stated that, instead of 
any acknowledgment to Montezuma, he threw down his idols and 
erected the Christian emblems in their stead. (Rel. Seg., ap. Loren- 
zana, p. 106.) This was an event of much later date. The Conquis- 
tador wrote his despatches too rapidly and concisely to give heed 
always to exact time and circumstance. We are quite as likely to find 
them attended to in the long-winded, gossiping, — inestimable chron- 
icle of Diaz. 

3= " Quarenta torres muy altas y bien obradas." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 105. 

33 " Delante de todos estos al tares habia braceros que toda la noche 
hardian, y en las salas tambien tenian sus fuegos." Toribio, Hist, de 
los Indios, MS., Parte i, cap. 12. 



of sacrifice and other abominations of fearful import. 
Their bold hearts shuddered at the spectacle, and they 
designated the place not inaptly as the " Hell." 34 

One other structure may be noticed as characteristic 
of the brutish nature of their religion. This was a 
pyramidal mound or tumulus, having a complicated 
frame-work of timber on its broad summit. On this 
was strung an immense number of human skulls, which 
belonged to the victims, mostly prisoners of war, who 
had perished on the accursed stone of sacrifice. Two 
of the soldiers had the patience to count the number 
of these ghastly trophies, and reported it to be one 
hundred and thirty-six thousand ! 3S Belief might well 

34 Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra. — Toribio, also, notices this temple 
with the same complimentary epithet. " La boca hecha como de in- 
fierno y en ella pintada la boca de una temerosa Sierpe con terribles 
colmillos y dientes, y en algunas de estas los colmillos eran de bulto, 
que verlo y entrar dentro ponia gran temor y grima, en especial el 
infierno que estaba en Mexico, que parecia traslado del verdadero 
infierno." Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 4. 

35 Bernal Diaz, ubi supra. — " Andres de Tapia, que me lo dijo, i 
Goncalo de Umbria, las contaron vn Dia, i hallaron ciento i treinta 1 
seis mil Calaberas, en las Vigas, i Gradas." Gomara, Cronica, cap. 82."* 

* [Gomara is so often accused of exaggeration and falsehood that 
it is satisfactory to find his exactness, in the present instance, estab- 
lished by the evidence of Tapia himself, who thus describes the manner 
in which the estimate was made : " 6 quien esto escribe, y un Gonzalo 
de Umbrea, contaron los palos que habie, e multiplicando a cinco 
cabezas cada palo de los que entre viga y viga estaban, . . . hallamos 
haber ciento treinta y seis mill cabezas, sin las de las torres." (Icazbal- 
ceta, Col. de Doc. para la Hist, de Mexico, torn, iii.) The original of 
this " Relacion," recently discovered, is in the library of the Academy 
of History at Madrid. It is an unfinished narrative, valuable as the 
production of one of the chief companions of Cortes, and foi the 
confirmation it affords of other contemporaneous accounts oi the 
Conquest. — Ed.] 


be staggered, did not the Old World present a worthy 
counterpart in the pyramidal Golgothas which com- 
memorated the triumphs of Tamerlane. 36 

There were long ranges of buildings in the enclo- 
sure, appropriated as the residence of the priests and 
others engaged in the offices of religion. The whole 
number of them was said to amount to several thou- 
sand. Here were, also, the principal seminaries for 
the instruction of youth of both sexes, drawn chiefly 
from the higher and wealthier classes. The girls were 
taught by elderly women who officiated as priestesses 
in the temples, a custom familiar, also, to Egypt. The 
Spaniards admit that the greatest care for morals, and 
the most blameless deportment, were maintained in 
these institutions. The time of the pupils was chiefly 
occupied, as in most monastic establishments, with the 
minute and burdensome ceremonial of their religion. 
The boys were likewise taught such elements of science 
as were known to their teachers, and the girls initiated 
in the mysteries of embroidery and weaving, which they 
employed in decorating the temples. At a suitable age 
they generally went forth into the world to assume the 
occupations fitted to their condition, though some re- 
mained permanently devoted to the services of religion. 37 

36 Three collections, thus fancifully disposed, of these grinning 
horrors — in all 230,000 — are noticed by Gibbon ! (Decline and Fall, 
ed. Milrnan, vol. i. p. 52; vol. xii. p. 45.) A European scholar com- 
mends "the conqueror's piety, his moderation, and his justice"! 
Rowe's Dedication of " Tamerlane." 

37 Ante, vol. i. pp. 72, 73. — The desire of presenting the reader with 
a complete view of the actual state of the capital at the time of its 
occupation by the Spaniards has led me in this and the preceding 
chapter into a few repetitions of remarks on the Aztec institutions in 
the Introductory Book of this History. 


The spot was also covered by edifices of a still 
different character. There were granaries filled with 
the rich produce of the church-lands and with the first- 
fruits and other offerings of the faithful. One large 
mansion was reserved for strangers of eminence who were 
on a pilgrimage to the great teocalli. The enclosure 
was ornamented with gardens, shaded by ancient trees 
and watered by fountains and reservoirs from the co- 
pious streams of Chapoltepec. The little community 
was thus provided with almost everything requisite for 
its own maintenance and the services of the temple. 38 

It was a microcosm of itself, a city within a city, 
and, according to the assertion of Cortes, embraced a 
tract of ground large enough for five hundred houses. 39 
It presented in this brief compass the extremes of 
barbarism, blended with a certain civilization, alto- 
gether characteristic of the Aztecs. The rude Con- 
querors saw only the evidence of the former. In the 
fantastic and symbolical features of the deities they 
beheld the literal lineaments of Satan ; in the rites and 
frivolous ceremonial, his own especial code of dam- 
nation ; and in the modest deportment and careful 
nurture of the inmates of the seminaries, the snares by 
which he was to beguile his deluded victims ! 4 ° Before 

3 8 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 12. — Gomara, 
Cr6nica, cap. 80. — Rel. d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, torn. iii. fol, 


39 " Es tan grande que dentro del circuito de ella, que es todo 
cercado de Muro muy alto, se podia muy bien facer una Villa de 
quinientos Vecinos." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 105. 

40 " Todas estas mugeres," says Father Toribio, " estaban aqui sir- 
viendo al demonio por sus propios intereses ; las unas porque el De- 
monio las hiciese modestas," etc. Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, 
cap. 9. 




a century had elapsed, the descendants of these same 
Spaniards discerned in the mysteries of the Aztec 
religion the features, obscured and defaced, indeed, of 
the Jewish and Christian revelations ! 4I Such were 
the opposite conclusions of the unlettered soldier and 
of the scholar. A philosopher, untouched by supersti- 
tion, might well doubt which of the two was the more 

The sight of the Indian abominations seems to have 
kindled in the Spaniards a livelier feeling for their own 
religion ; since on the following day they asked leave 
of Montezuma to convert one of the halls in their 
residence into a chapel, that they might celebrate the 
services of the Church there. The monarch, in whose 
bosom the feelings of resentment seem to have soon 
subsided, easily granted their request, and sent some 
of his own artisans to aid them in the work. 

While it was in progress, some of the Spaniards 
observed what appeared to be a door recently plastered 
over. It was a common rumor that Montezuma still 
kept the treasures of his father, King Axayacatl, in this 
ancient palace. The Spaniards, acquainted with this 
fact, felt no scruple in gratifying their curiosity by 
removing the plaster. As was anticipated, it concealed 
a door. On forcing this, they found the rumor was no 
exaggeration. They beheld a large hall filled with rich 
and beautiful stuffs, articles of curious workmanship of 
various kinds, gold and silver in bars and in the ore, 
and many jewels of value. It was the private hoard 
of Montezuma, the contributions, it may be, of tribu- 
tary cities, and once the property of his father. " I 

<n See Appendix, Part I. 


was a young man," says Diaz, who was one of those 
that obtained a sight of it, "and it seemed to me as 
if all the riches of the world were in that room!" 42 
The Spaniards, notwithstanding their elation at the 
discovery of this precious deposit, seem to have felt 
some commendable scruples as to appropriating it to 
their own use, — at least for the present. iVnd Cortes, 
after closing up the wall as it was before, gave strict 
injunctions that nothing should be said of the matter, 
unwilling that the knowledge of its existence by his 
guests should reach the ears of Montezuma. 

Three days sufficed to complete the chapel ; and the 
Christians had the satisfaction to see themselves in 
possession of a temple where they might worship God 
in their own way, under the protection of the Cross 
and the blessed Virgin. Mass was regularly performed 
by the fathers Olmedo and Diaz, in the presence of 
the assembled army, who were most earnest and ex- 
emplary in their devotions, partly, says the chronicler 
above quoted, from the propriety of the thing, and 
partly for its edifying influence on the benighted 
heathen. 43 

42 " Y luego lo supimos entre todos los demas Capitanes, y soldados, 
y lo entramos i. ver muy secretamente, y como yo lo vi, digo que me 
admire, 6 como en aquel tiempo era mancebo, y no auia visto en mi 
vida riquezas como aquellas, tuue por cierto, que en el mundo no 
deuiera auer otras tantas I" Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 93. 

43 Ibid., loc. cit. 






The Spaniards had been now a week in Mexico. 
During this time they had experienced the most friendly 
treatment from the emperor. But the mind of Cortes 
was far from easy. He felt that it was quite uncertain 
how long this amiable temper would last. A hundred 
circumstances might occur to change it. Montezuma 
might very naturally feel the maintenance of so large a 
body too burdensome on his treasury. The people of 
the capital might become dissatisfied at the presence of 
so numerous an armed force within their walls. Many 
causes of disgust might arise betwixt the soldiers and 
the citizens. Indeed, it was scarcely possible that a 
rude, licentious soldiery, like the Spaniards, could be 
long kept in subjection without active employment. 1 
The danger was even greater with the Tlascalans, a 
fierce race now brought into daily contact with the 
nation who held them in loathing and detestation. 
Rumors were already rife among the allies, whether 

1 "We Spaniards," says Cortes, frankly, " are apt to be somewhat 
unmanageable and troublesome." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 84. 



well founded or not, of murmurs among the Mexicans, 
accompanied by menaces of raising the bridges. 2 

Even should the Spaniards be allowed to occupy 
their present quarters unmolested, it was not advancing 
the great object of the expedition. Cortes was not a 
whit nearer gaining the capital, so essential to his 
meditated subjugation of the country ; and any day 
he might receive tidings that the crown, or, what he 
most feared, the governor of Cuba, had sent a force of 
superior strength to wrest from him a conquest but 
half achieved. Disturbed by these anxious reflections, 
he resolved to extricate himself from his embarrassment 
by one bold stroke. But he first submitted the affair 
to a council of the officers in whom he most confided, 
desirous to divide with them the responsibility of the 
act, and, no 'doubt, to interest them more heartily in 
its execution by making it in some measure the result 
of their combined judgments. 

When the general had briefly stated the embarrass- 
ments of their position, the council was divided in 
opinion. All admitted the necessity of some instant 
action. One party were for retiring secretly from the 
city, and getting beyond the causeways before their 
march could be intercepted. Another advised that it 

a Gomara, Cronica, cap. 83. — There is reason to doubt the truth 
of these stories. " Segun una carta original que tengo en mi poder 
firmada de las tres cabezas de la Nueva-Espafia en donde escriben & la 
Magestad del Emperador Nuestro Senor (que Dios tenga en su Santo 
Reyno) disculpan en ella i. Motecuhzoma y & los Mexicanos de esto, 
y de lo demas que se les argullo, que lo cierto era que fue invencion 
de los Tlascaltecas, y de algunos de los Espanoles que veian la hora 
de salirse de miedo de la Ciudad, y poner en cobro innumerables 
riquezas que habian venido a sus manos." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich.. 
MS., cap. 85. 



should be clone openly, with the knowledge of the 
emperor, of whose good will they had had so many 
proofs. But both these measures seemed alike im- 
politic. A retreat under these circumstances, and so 
abruptly made, would have the air of a flight. It would 
be construed into distrust of themselves ; and anything 
like timidity on their part would be sure not only to 
bring on them the Mexicans, but the contempt of their 
allies, who would, doubtless, join in the general cry. 

As to Montezuma, what reliance could they place on 
the protection of a prince so recently their enemy, and 
who, in his altered bearing, must have taken counsel 
of his fears rather than his inclinations? 

Even should they succeed in reaching the coast, their 
situation would be little better. It would be proclaim- 
ing to the world that, after all their lofty vaunts, they 
were unequal to the enterprise. Their only hopes of 
their sovereign's favor, and of pardon for their irregular 
proceedings, were founded on success. Hitherto, they 
had only made the discovery of Mexico ; to retreat 
would be to leave conquest and the fruits of it to an- 
other. In short, to stay and to retreat seemed equally 

In this perplexity, Cortes proposed an expedient 
which none but the most daring spirit, in the most 
desperate extremity, would have conceived. This was 
to march to the royal palace and bring Montezuma to 
the Spanish quarters, by fair means if they could per- 
suade him, by force if necessary, — at all events, to get 
possession of his person. With such a pledge, the 
Spaniards would be secure from the assault of the 
Mexicans, afraid by acts of violence to compromise 



the safety of their prince. If he came by his own con- 
sent, they would be deprived of all apology for doing 
so. As long as the emperor remained among the 
Spaniards, it would be easy, by allowing him a show 
of sovereignty, to rule in his name, until they had 
taken measures for securing their safety and the success 
of their enterprise. The idea of employing a sovereign 
as a tool for the government of his own kingdom, if a 
new one in the age of Cortes, is certainly not so in 
ours. 3 

A plausible pretext for the seizure of the hospitable 
monarch — for the most barefaced action seeks to veil 
itself under some show of decency — was afforded by a 
circumstance of which Cortes had received intelligence 

3 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 84. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., cap. 85. — P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. — 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 6. — Bernal Diaz gives a 
very different report of this matter. According to him, a number of 
officers and soldiers, of whom he was one, suggested the capture of 
Montezuma to the general, who came into the plan with hesitation. 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 93.) This is contrary to the character of 
Cortes, who was a man to lead, not to be led, on such occasions. It 
is contrary to the general report of historians, though these, it must be 
confessed, are mainly built on the general's narrative. It is contrary 
to anterior probability ; since, if the conception seems almost too des- 
perate to have seriously entered into the head of any one man, how 
much more improbable is it that it should have originated with a num- 
ber ! Lastly, it is contrary to the positive written statement of Cortes 
to the emperor, publicly known and circulated, confirmed in print by 
his chaplain, Gomara, and all this when the thing was fresh and when 
the parties interested were alive to contradict it. We cannot but 
think that the captain here, as in the case of the burning of the ships, 
assumes rather more for himself and his comrades than the facts will 
strictly warrant ; an oversight for which the lapse of half a century — 
to say nothing of his avowed anxiety to show up the claims of the 
latter — may furnish some apology. 


at Cholula. 4 He had left, as we have seen, a faithful 
officer, Juan de Escalante, with a hundred and fifty 
men, in garrison at Vera Cruz, on his departure for the 
capital He had not been long absent when his lieu- 
tant received a message from an Aztec chief named 
Quauhpopoca, governor of a district to the north of 
the Spanish settlement, declaring his desire to come in 
person and tender his allegiance to the Spanish author- 
ities at Vera Cruz. He requested that four of the white 
men might be sent to protect him against certain un- 
friendly tribes through which his road lay. This was 
not an uncommon request, and excited no suspicion in 
Escalante. The four soldiers were sent ; and on their 
arrival two of them were murdered by the false Aztec. 
The other two made their way back to the garrison. s 

The commander marched at once, with fifty of his 
men, and several thousand Indian allies, to take ven- 
geance on the cacique. A pitched battle followed. 
The allies fled from the redoubted Mexicans. The few 
Spaniards stood firm, and with the aid of their fire-arms 
and the blessed Virgin, who was distinctly seen hover- 
ing over their ranks in the van, they made good the 
field against the enemy. It cost them dear, however ; 

4 Even Gomara has the candor to style it a "pretext," — achaque. 
Cronica, cap. 83. 

5 Bemal Diaz states the affair, also, differently. According to him, 
the Aztec governor was enforcing the payment of the customary 
tribute from the Totonacs, when Escalante, interfering to protect his 
allies, now subjects of Spain, was slain in an action with the enemy. 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 93.) Cortes had the best means of know- 
ing the facts, and wrote at the time. He does not usually shrink from 
avowing his policy, however severe, towards the natives ; and I have 
thought it fair to give him the benefit of his own version of the story. 


since seven or eight Christians were slain, and among 
them the gallant Escalante himself, who died of his 
injuries soon after his return to the fort. The Indian 
prisoners captured in the battle spoke of the whole 
proceeding as having taken place at the instigation of 
Montezuma. 6 

One of the Spaniards fell into the hands of the 
natives, but soon after perished of his wounds. His 
head was cut off and sent to the Aztec emperor. It 
was uncommonly large and covered with hair ; and, as 
Montezuma gazed on the ferocious features, rendered 
more horrible by death, he seemed to read in them the 
dark lineaments of the destined destroyers of his house. 
He turned from it with a shudder, and commanded 
that it should be taken from the city, and not offered 
at the shrine of any of his gods. 

Although Cortes had received intelligence of this 
disaster at Cholula, he had concealed it within his own 
breast, or communicated it to very few only of his most 
trusty officers, from apprehension of the ill effect it 
might have on the spirits of the common soldiers. 

The cavaliers whom Cortes now summoned to the 
council were men of the same mettle with their leader. 
Their bold, chivalrous spirits seemed to court danger 
for its own sake. If one or two, less adventurous, were 

6 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5. — Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 83, 84. — The apparition of the Virgin was 
seen only by the Aztecs, who, it is true, had to make out the best case 
for their defeat they could to Montezuma ; a suspicious circumstance, 
which, however, did not stagger the Spaniards. " Assuredly all of us 
soldiers who accompanied Cortes held the belief that the divine mercy 
and Our Lady the Virgin Mary were always with us, and this was the 
truth." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 94. 
Vol. II. 14 


startled by the proposal he made, they were soon over- 
ruled by the others, who, no doubt, considered that a 
desperate disease required as desperate a remedy. 

That night Cortes was heard pacing his apartment 
to and fro, like a man oppressed by thought or agitated 
by strong emotion. He may have been ripening in 
his mind the daring scheme for the morrow. 7 In the 
morning the soldiers heard mass as usual, and Father 
Olmedo invoked the blessing of Heaven on their haz- 
ardous enterprise. Whatever might be the cause in 
which he was embarked, the heart of the Spaniard was 
cheered with the conviction that the saints were on his 
side ! 8 

Having asked an audience from Montezuma, which 
was readily granted, the general made the necessary 
arrangements for his enterprise. The principal part 
of his force was drawn up in the court-yard, and he 
stationed a considerable detachment in the avenues lead- 
ing to the palace, to check any attempt at rescue by 
the populace. He ordered twenty-five or thirty of the 
soldiers to drop in at the palace, as if by accident, in 
groups of three or four at a time, while the conference 
was going on with Montezuma. He selected five 
cavaliers, in whose courage and coolness he placed 
most trust, to bear him company; Pedro de Alvarado, 
Gonzalo de Sandoval, Francisco de Lujo, Velasquez de 
Leon, and Alonso de Avila, — brilliant names in the 

7 " Paseose vn gran rato solo, i cuidadoso de aquel gran hecho, que 
emprendia, i que aun a el mesmo le parecia temerario, pero necesario 
para su intento, andando." Gomara, Cronica, cap. S3. 

8 Diaz says, "All that night we spent in prayer, beseeching the Father 
of Mercies that he would so direct the matter that it should contribute 
to his holy service." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 95. 



annals of the Conquest. All were clad, as well as the 
common soldiers, in complete armor, a circumstance 
of too familiar occurrence to excite suspicion. 

The little party were graciously received by the 
emperor, who soon, with the aid of the interpreters, 
became interested in a sportive conversation with the 
Spaniards, while he indulged his natural munificence 
by giving them presents of gold and jewels. He paid 
the Spanish general the particular compliment of offer- 
ing him one of his daughters as his wife ; an honor 
which the latter respectfully declined, on the ground 
that he was already accommodated with one in Cuba, 
and that his religion forbade a plurality. 

When Cortes perceived that a sufficient number of 
his soldiers were assembled, he changed his playful 
manner, and in a serious tone briefly acquainted Mon- 
tezuma with the treacherous proceedings in the tierra 
caliente, and the accusation of him as their author. 
The emperor listened to the charge with surprise, and 
disavowed the act, which he said could only have been 
imputed to him by his enemies. Cortes expressed his 
belief in his declaration, but added that, to prove it 
true, it would be necessary to send for Quauhpopoca 
and his accomplices, that they might be examined and 
dealt with according to their deserts. To this Monte- 
zuma made no objection. Taking from his wrist, to 
which it was attached, a precious stone, the royal signet, 
on which was cut the figure of the War-god, 9 he gave 
it to one of his nobles, with orders to show it to the 

9 According to Ixtlilxochitl, it was his own portrait. " Se quit6 
del brazo una rica piedra, donde estd esculpido su rostro (que era lo 
mismo que un sello Real)." Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85. 


Aztec governor, and require his instant presence in the 
capital, together with all those who had been accessory 
to the murder of the Spaniards. If he resisted, the 
officer was empowered to call in the aid of the neigh- 
horing towns to enforce the mandate. 

When the messenger had gone, Cortes assured the 
monarch that this prompt compliance with his request 
convinced him of his innocence. But it was impor- 
tant that his own sovereign should be equally convinced 
of it. Nothing would promote this so much as for 
Montezuma to transfer his residence to the palace 
occupied by the Spaniards, till on the arrival of Quauh- 
popoca the affair could be fully investigated. Such an 
act of condescension would, of itself, show a personal 
regard for the Spaniards, incompatible with the base 
conduct alleged against him, and would fully absolve 
him from all suspicion ! I0 

Montezuma listened to this proposal, and the flimsy 
reasoning with which it was covered, with looks of 
profound amazement. He became pale as death ; but 
in a moment his face flushed with resentment, as, with 
the pride of offended dignity, he exclaimed, "When 
was it ever heard that a great prince, like myself, vol- 
untarily left his own palace to become a prisoner in the 
hands of strangers !" 

Cortes assured him he would not go as a prisoner. 
He would experience nothing but respectful treatment 
from the Spaniards, would be surrounded by his own 
household, and hold intercourse with his people as 
usual. In short, it would be but a change of residence, 
from one of his palaces to another, a circumstance of 

10 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 86. 


frequent occurrence with him. It was in vain. '* If I 
should consent to such a degradation," he answered, 
" my subjects never would ! " " When further pressed, 
he offered to give up one of his sons and two of his 
daughters to remain as hostages with the Spaniards, so 
that he might be spared this disgrace. 

Two hours passed in this fruitless discussion, till a 
high-mettled cavalier, Velasquez de Leon, impatient 
of the long delay, and seeing that the attempt, if not 
the deed, must ruin them, cried out, "Why do we 
waste words on this barbarian ? We have gone too far 
to recede now. Let us seize him, and, if he resists, 
plunge our swords into his body !" I2 The fierce tone 
and menacing gestures with which this was uttered 
alarmed the monarch, who inquired of Marina what 
the angry Spaniard said. The interpreter explained it 
in as gentle a manner as she could, beseeching him " to 
accompany the white men to their quarters, where he 
would be treated with all respect and kindness, while 
to refuse them would but expose himself to violence, 
perhaps to death." Marina, doubtless, spoke to her 
sovereign as she thought, and no one had better op- 
portunity of knowing the truth than herself. 

This last appeal shook the resolution of Montezuma. 
It was in vain that the unhappy prince looked around 
for sympathy or support. As his eyes wandered over 

" " Quando Io lo consintiera, los mios no pasarian por ello." Ix- 
tlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85. 

" " ,i Que haze v. m. ya con tantas palabras? O le lleuemos preso, 
6 le daremos de estocadas, por esso tornadle 6. dezir, que si da vozes, 
6 haze alboroto, que le matareis, porque mas vale que desta vez as- 
seguremos nuestras vidas, 6 las perdamos." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 95. 



the stern visages and iron forms of the Spaniards, he 
felt that his hour was indeed come ; and, with a voice 
scarcely audible from emotion, he consented to accom- 
pany the strangers, — to quit the palace, whither he was 
never more to return. Had he possessed the spirit of 
the first Montezuma, he would have called his guards 
around him, and left his life-blood on the threshold, 
sooner than have been dragged a dishonored captive 
across it. But his courage sank under circumstances. 
He felt he was the instrument of an irresistible Fate ! I3 
No sooner had the Spaniards got his consent, than 
orders were given for the royal litter. The nobles 
who bore and attended it could scarcely believe their 
senses when they learned their master's purpose. But 
pride now came to Montezuma's aid, and, since he 
must go, he preferred that it should appear to be with 
his own free will. As the royal retinue, escorted by 
the Spaniards, marched through the street with down- 
cast eyes and dejected mien, the people assembled in 
crowds, and a rumor ran among them that the emperor 
was carried off by force to the quarters of the white 
men. A tumult would have soon arisen but for the 

J 3 Oviedo has some doubts whether Montezuma's conduct is to be 
viewed as pusillanimous or as prudent. " Al coronista le parece, segun 
lo que se puede colegir de esta materia, que Montezuma era, 6 mui 
falto de 6nimo, 6 pusilanimo, 6 mui prudente, aunque en muchas 
cosas, los que le vieron lo loan de mui senor y mui liberal ; y en sus 
razonamientos mostraba ser de buen juicio." He strikes the balance, 
however, in favor of pusillanimity. " Un Principe tan grande como 
Montezuma no se habia de dexar incurrir en tales terminos, ni con- 
sentir ser detenido de tan poco numero de Espanoles, ni de otra 
generacion alguna ; mas como Dios tiene ordenado lo que ha de ser, 
ninguno puede huir de su juicio." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
cap. 6. 


intervention of Montezuma himself, who called out to 
the people to disperse, as he was visiting his friends of 
his own accord ; thus sealing his ignominy by a declara- 
tion which deprived his subjects of the only excuse for 
resistance. On reaching the quarters, he sent out his 
nobles with similar assurances to the mob, and renewed 
orders to return to their homes. 14 

He was received with ostentatious respect by the 
Spaniards, and selected the suite of apartments which 
best pleased him. They were soon furnished with fine 
cotton tapestries, feather-work, and all the elegancies 
of Indian upholstery. He was attended by such of 
his household as he chose, his wives and his pages, 
and was served with his usual pomp and luxury at his 
meals.* He gave audience, as in his own palace, to 
his subjects, who were admitted to his presence, few, 
indeed, at a time, under the pretext of greater order 
and decorum. From the Spaniards themselves he met 

J 4 The story of the seizure of Montezuma may be found, with the 
usual discrepancies in the details, in Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 
ssana, pp. 84-86, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 95, — Ix- 
tlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 6, — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 83, — Herrera, Hist, gene- 
ral, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 2, 3, — Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. 

* [According to Tapia, his servants brought him at each meal more 
than four hundred dishes of meat, game, and fish, intermingled with 
vegetables and fruits : "e debajo de cada plato de los que d. rus servi- 
dores les parecie que el comerie, venia un braserico con lumbre ; . . . 
siempre le traian platos nuevos en que comie, e jamas comie en cada 
plato mas de una vez, ni se vistie ropa mas de una vez ; e lavlbase el 
cuerpo cada dia dos veces." Icazbalceta, Col. de Doc. para la Hist, 
de Mexico, torn. ii. — Ed.] 


with a formal deference. No one, not even the general 
himself, approached him without doffing his casque 
and rendering the obeisance due to his rank. Nor did 
they ever sit in his presence, without being invited by 
him to do so. 13 

With all this studied ceremony and show of homage, 
there was one circumstance which too clearly pro- 
claimed to his people that their sovereign was a pris- 
oner. In the front of the palace a patrol of sixty men 
was established, and the same number in the rear. 
Twenty of each corps mounted guard at once, main- 
taining a careful watch, day and night. 16 Another 
body, under command of Velasquez de Leon, was 
stationed in the royal antechamber. Cortes punished 
any departure from duty, or relaxation of vigilance, in 
these sentinels, with the utmost severity. 17 He felt, as 
indeed every Spaniard must have felt, that the escape 
of the emperor now would be their ruin. Yet the task 
of this unintermitting watch sorely added to their 
fatigues. "Better this dog of a king should die," 
cried a soldier one day, "than that we should wear out 
our lives in this manner." The words were uttered 
in the hearing of Montezuma, who gathered something 
of their import, and the offender was severely chastised 

»s " Siempre que ante el passauamos, y aunque fuesse Cortes, le 
quitauamos los bonetes de armas 6 cascos, que siempre estauamos 
armados, y el nos hazia gran mesura, y honra d todos. . . . Digo 
que no se sentauan Cortes, ni ningun Capitan, hasta que el Monte- 
cuma les mandaua dar sus assentaderos ricos, y les mandaua assentar." 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 95, 100. 

16 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 3. 

*7 On one occasion, three soldiers, who left their posts without 
orders, were sentenced to run the gauntlet, — a punishment little short 
of death. Ibid., ubi supra. 


by order of the general. 18 Such instances of disrespect, 
however, were very rare. Indeed, the amiable deport- 
ment of the monarch, who seemed to take pleasure in 
the society of his jailers, and who never allowed a favor 
or attention from the meanest soldier to go unrequited, 
inspired the Spaniards with as much attachment as they 
were capable of feeling — for a barbarian. 19 

Things were in this posture, when the arrival of 
Quauhpopoca from the coast was announced. He was 
accompanied by his son and fifteen Aztec chiefs. He 
had travelled all the way, borne, as became his high 
rank, in a litter. On entering Montezuma's presence, 
he threw over his dress the coarse robe of nequen, and 
made the usual humiliating acts of obeisance. The 
poor parade of courtly ceremony was the more striking 

18 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 97. 

x 9 [The patriotic sensibilities of Sefior Ramirez are somewhat dis- 
turbed by my application of the term barbarians to his Aztec country- 
men.* This word, with the corresponding epithet of savages, forms 
the key, he seems to think, to my descriptions of the ancient Mexicans. 
" Regarded from this point of view," he says, " the astounding ex- 
amples of heroism and self-devotion so rarely met with in the history 
of the world are interpreted not as a voluntary sacrifice inspired by 
the holy love of country and of freedom, but as the effect of a brutish 
hatred and stupid ferocity." There may be some foundation for these 
strictures, though somewhat too highly colored. And one cannot 
deny that, as he reflects on the progress made by the Aztecs in the 
knowledge of the useful arts, and, indeed, to a certain extent, of 
science, he must admit their claim to a higher place in the scale of 
civilization than that occupied by barbarians, — to one, in truth, occu- 

* [This sensibility is the more natural that Sefior Ramirez claims 
descent not from the conquering but from the conquered race, — a fact 
which may also account for his rigorous judgments on the acts and 
character of Cortes. — Ed.] 


when placed in contrast with the actual condition 
of the parties. 

The Aztec governor was coldly received by his 
master, who referred the affair (had he the power to 
do otherwise ?) to the examination of Cortes. It was, 
doubtless, conducted in a sufficiently summary manner. 
To the general's query, whether the cacique was the 
subject of Montezuma, he replied, "And what other 
sovereign could I serve?" implying that his sway was 
universal. 20 He did not deny his share in the trans- 
action, nor did he seek to shelter himself under the 
royal authority till sentence of death was passed on 
him and his followers, when they all laid the blame of 
their proceedings on Montezuma. 21 They were con- 
demned to be burnt alive in the area before the palace. 
The funeral piles were made of heaps of arrows, jave- 
lins, and other weapons, drawn by the emperor's per- 
mission from the arsenals round the great teocalli, 
where they had been stored to supply means of defence 
in times of civic tumult or insurrection. By this 
politic precaution Cortes proposed to remove a ready 
means of annoyance in case of hostilities with the 

pied by the semi-civilized races of China and Hindostan. But there 
is another side of the picture, not presented by the Eastern nations, in 
those loathsome abominations which degraded the Aztec character to 
a level with the lowest stages of humanity, and makes even the term 
barbarian inadequate to express the ferocity of his nature.] 

20 " Y despues que confesaron haber muerto los Espanoles, les hice 
nterrogar si ellos eran Vasallos de Muteczuma? Y el dicho Qualpo- 

poca respondio, que si habia otro Sefior, de quien pudiesse serlo? casi 
diciendo, que no habia otro, y que si eran." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 87. 

21 " E assimismo les pregunte, si lo que alii se habia hecho si habia 


To crown the whole of these extraordinary proceed- 
ings, Cortes, while preparations for the execution were 
going on, entered the emperor's apartment, attended 
by a soldier bearing fetters in his hands. With a 
severe aspect, he charged the monarch with being the 
original contriver of the violence offered to the Span- 
iards, as was now proved by the declaration of his own 
instruments. Such a crime, which merited death in a 
subject, could not be atoned for, even by a sovereign, 
without some punishment. So saying, he ordered the 
soldier to fasten the fetters on Montezuma's ankles. 
He coolly waited till it was done, then, turning his 
back on the monarch, quitted the room. 

Montezuma was speechless under the infliction of 
this last insult. He was like one struck down by a 
heavy blow, that deprives him of all his faculties. He 
offered no resistance. But, though he spoke not a 
word, low, ill-suppressed moans, from time to time, 
intimated the anguish of his spirit. His attendants, 
bathed in tears, offered him their consolations. They 
tenderly held his feet in their arms, and endeavored, 
by inserting their shawls and mantles, to relieve them 
from the pressure of the iron. But they could not 
reach the iron which had penetrated into his soul. He 
felt that he was no more a king. 

Meanwhile, the execution of the dreadful doom was 
going forward in the court-yard. The whole Spanish 
force was under arms, to check any interruption that 

sido por su mandado ? y dijeron que no, aunque despues, al tiempo 
que en ellos se executo la sentencia, que fuessen queraados, todos i. 
una voz dijeron, que era verdad que el dicho Muteczuma se lo habia 
embiado & mandar, y que por su mandado lo habian hecho." ReL 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, loc cit. 


might be offered by the Mexicans. But none was 
attempted. The populace gazed in silent wonder, 
regarding it as the sentence of the emperor. The 
manner of the execution, too, excited less surprise, 
from their familiarity with similar spectacles, aggra- 
vated, indeed, by additional horrors, in their own 
diabolical sacrifices. The Aztec lord and his compan- 
ions, bound hand and foot to the blazing piles, sub- 
mitted without a cry or a complaint to their terrible 
fate. Passive fortitude is the virtue of the Indian war- 
rior ; and it was the glory of the Aztec, as of the other 
races on the North American continent, to show how 
the spirit of the brave man may triumph over torture 
and the agonies of death. 

When the dismal tragedy was ended, Cortes re- 
entered Montezuma's apartment. Kneeling down, he 
unclasped his shackles with his own hand, expressing 
at the same time his regret that so disagreeable a duty 
as that of subjecting him to such a punishment had 
been imposed on him. This last indignity had entirely 
crushed the spirit of Montezuma ; and the monarch 
whose frown, but a week since, would have made the 
nations of Anahuac tremble to their remotest borders, 
was now craven enough to thank his deliverer for his 
freedom, as for a great and unmerited boon ! 22 

Not long after, the Spanish general, conceiving that 
his royal captive was sufficiently humbled, expressed 
his willingness that he should return, if he inclined, to 

22 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 89. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 6.— Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 95. — One may 
doubt whether pity or contempt predominates in Martyr's notice 
of this event. " Infelix tunc Muteczuma re adeo noua perculsus, 


his own palace. Montezuma declined it ; alleging, it 
is said, that his nobles had more than once importuned 
him to resent his injuries by taking arms against the 
Spaniards, and that, were he in the midst of them, it 
would be difficult to avoid it, or to save his capital 
from bloodshed and anarchy. 23 The reason did honor 
to his heart, if it was the one which influenced him. 
It is probable that he did not care to trust his safety 
to those haughty and ferocious chieftains, who had 
witnessed the degradation of their master, and must 
despise his pusillanimity, as a thing unprecedented in 
an Aztec monarch. It is also said that, when Marina 
conveyed to him the permission of Cortes, the other 
interpreter, Aguilar, gave him to understand the Spanish 
officers never would consent that he should avail himself 
of it. 24 

Whatever were his reasons, it is certain that he de- 
clined the offer ; and the general, in a well-feigned or 
real ecstasy, embraced him, declaring "that he loved 
him as a brother, and that every Spaniard would be 
zealously devoted to his interests, since he had shown 
himself so mindful of theirs !" Honeyed words, 
"which," says the shrewd old chronicler who was 
present, "Montezuma was wise enough to know the 
worth of." 

formidine repletur, decidit animo, neque iam erigere caput audet, 
aut suorum auxilia implorare. Me vero poenam se meruisse fas- 
sus est, vti agnus mitis. ^Equo animo pati videtur has regulas gram- 
maticalibus duriores, imberbibus pueris dictatas, omnia placide fert, 
ne seditio ciuium et procerum oriatur." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, 
cap. 3. 

2 3 Rel. Seg, de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 18. 

s 4 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 
Vol. II.— h 15 



The events recorded in this chapter are certainly 
some of the most extraordinary on the page of history. 
That a small body of men, like the Spaniards, should 
hav.e entered the palace of a mighty prince, have seized 
his person in the midst of his vassals, have borne him 
off a captive to their quarters, — that they should have 
put to an ignominious death before his face his high 
officers, for executing, probably, his own commands, 
and have crowned the whole by putting the monarch 
in irons like a common malefactor, — that this should 
have been done, not to a drivelling dotard in the decay 
of his fortunes, but to a proud monarch in the pleni- 
tude of his power, in the very heart of his capital, 
surrounded by thousands and tens of thousands, who 
trembled at his nod and would have poured out their 
blood like water in his defence, — that all this should 
have been done by a mere handful of adventurers, is 
a thing too extravagant, altogether too improbable, for 
the pages of romance ! It is, nevertheless, literally 
true. Yet we shall not be prepared to acquiesce in the 
judgments of contemporaries who regarded these acts 
with admiration. We may well distrust any grounds 
on which it is attempted to justify the kidnapping of 
a friendly sovereign, — by those very persons, too, who 
were reaping the full benefit of his favors. 

To view the matter differently, we must take the 
position of the Conquerors and assume with them the 
original right of conquest. Regarded from this point 
of view, many difficulties vanish. If conquest were a 
duty, whatever was necessary to effect it was right 
also. Right and expedient become convertible terms. 
And it can hardly be denied that the capture of the 


monarch was expedient, if the Spaniards would maintain 
their hold on the empire. 2S 

The execution of the Aztec governor suggests other 
considerations. If he were really guilty of the perfidious 
act imputed to him by Cortes, and if Montezuma dis- 
avowed it, the governor deserved death, and the gen- 
eral was justified by the law of nations in inflicting it. 26 
It is by no means so clear, however, why he should 
have involved so many in this sentence \ most, perhaps 
all, of whom must have acted under his authority. 
The cruel manner of the death will less startle those 
who are familiar with the established penal codes in 
most civilized nations in the sixteenth century. 

But, if the governor deserved death, what pretence 
was there for the outrage on the person of Montezuma ? 
If the former was guilty, the latter surely was not. But, 
if the cacique only acted in obedience to orders, the 
responsibility was transferred to the sovereign who gave 
the orders. They could not both stand in the same 

It is vain, however, to reason on the matter on any 
abstract principles of right and wrong, or to suppose 
that the Conquerors troubled themselves with the re- 

=5 Archbishop Lorenzana, as late as the close of the last century, 
finds good Scripture warrant for the proceeding of the Spaniards. 
" Fue grande prudencia, y Arte militar haber asegurado a el Empe- 
rador, porque sino quedaban expuestos Hernan Cortes, ysus soldados 
a perecer a traycion, y teniendo seguro a el Emperador se aseguraba 
i. si mismo, pues los Espanoles no se confian ligeramente : Jonathas 
fue muerto, y sorprendido por haberse confiado de Triphon." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, p. 84, nota. 

86 See Puffendorf, De Jure Naturae et Gentium, lib. 8, cap. 6, sec. 
10. — Vattel, Law of Nations, book 3, chap. 8, sec. 141. 



finements of casuistry. Their standard of right and 
wrong, in reference to the natives, was a very simple 
one. Despising them as an outlawed race, without God 
in the world, they, in common with their age, held it 
to be their "mission" (to borrow the cant phrase of 
our own day) to conquer and to convert. The measures 
they adopted certainly facilitated the first great work 
of conquest. By the execution of the caciques they 
struck terror not only into the capital, but throughout 
the country. It proclaimed that not a hair of a Span- 
iard was to be touched with impunity ! By rendering 
Montezuma contemptible in his own eyes and those of 
his subjects, Cortes deprived him of the support of 
his people and forced him to lean on the arm of the 
stranger. It was a politic proceeding, — to which few 
men could have been equal who had a touch of humanity 
in their natures. 

A good criterion of the moral sense of the actors in 
these events is afforded by the reflections of Bernal 
Diaz, made some fifty years, it will be remembered, 
after the events themselves, when the fire of youth had 
become extinct, and the eye, glancing back through 
the vista of half a century, might be supposed to be 
unclouded by the passions and prejudices which throw 
their mist over the present. " Now that I am an old 
man," says the veteran, " I often entertain myself with 
calling to mind the heroical deeds of early days, till 
they are as fresh as the events of yesterday. I think 
of the seizure of the Indian monarch, his confinement 
in irons, and the execution of his officers, till all these 
things seem actually passing before me. And, as I 
ponder on our exploits, I feel that it was not of our- 



selves that we performed them, but that it was the 
providence of God which guided us. Much food is 
there here for meditation!" 27 There is so, indeed, 
and for a meditation not unpleasing, as we reflect on 
the advance, in speculative morality at least, which the 
nineteenth century has made over the sixteenth. But 
should not the consciousness of this teach us charity ? 
Should it not make us the more distrustful of applying 
the standard of the present to measure the actions of 
the past ? 

«7 " Osar quemar sus Capitanes delante de sus Palacios, y echalle 
grillos entre tanto que se hazia la Justicia, que muchas vezes aora que 
soy viejo me paro a considerar las cosas heroicas que en aquel tiempo 
passamos, que me parece las veo presentes : Y digo que nuestros 
hechos, que no los haziamos nosotros, sino que venian todos encami- 
nados por Dios. . . . Porque ay mucho que ponderar en ello." Hist. 
de la Conquista, cap. 95. 


montezuma's deportment. — his life in the Spanish 

quarters. meditated insurrection. lord of 

tezcuco seized. — further measures of cortes. 


The settlement of La Villa Rica de Vera Cruz was 
of the last importance to the Spaniards. It was the 
port by which they were to communicate with Spain ; 
the strong post on which they were to retreat in case 
of disaster, and which was to bridle their enemies and 
give security to their allies; the point d'appui for all 
their operations in the country. It was of great 
moment, therefore, that the care of it should be in- 
trusted to proper hands. 

A cavalier, named Alonso de Grado, had been sent 
by Cortes to take the place made vacant by the death 
of Escalante. He was a person of greater repute in 
civil than military matters, and would be more likely, 
it was thought, to maintain peaceful relations with the 
natives than a person of more belligerent spirit. Cortes 
made — what was rare with him — a bad choice. He 
soon received such accounts of troubles in the settle- 
ment from the exactions and negligence of the new 
governor, that he resolved to supersede him. 

He now gave the command to Gonzalo de Sandoval, 
a young cavalier, who had displayed, through the whole 


campaign, singular intrepidity united with sagacity 
and discretion ; while the good humor with which he 
bore every privation, and his affable manners, made 
him a favorite with all, privates as well as officers. 
Sandoval accordingly left the camp for the coast. 
Cortes did not mistake his man a second time. 

Notwithstanding the actual control exercised by the 
Spaniards through their royal captive, Cortes felt some 
uneasiness when he reflected that it was in the power 
of the Indians at any time to cut off his communica- 
tions with the surrounding country and hold him a 
prisoner in the capital. He proposed, therefore, to 
build two vessels of sufficient size to transport his forces 
across the lake, and thus to render himself independ- 
ent of the causeways. Montezuma was pleased with 
the idea of seeing those wonderful "water-houses," 
of which he had heard so much, and readily gave per- 
mission to have the timber in the royal forests felled 
for the purpose. The work was placed under the 
direction of Martin Lopez, an experienced ship-builder. 
Orders were also given to Sandoval to send up from 
the coast a supply of cordage, sails, iron, and other 
necessary materials, which had been judiciously saved 
on the destruction of the fleet. 1 

The Aztec emperor, meanwhile, was passing his days 
in the Spanish quarters in no very different manner 
from what he had been accustomed to in his own palace. 
His keepers were too well aware of the value of their 
prize, not to do everything which could make his cap- 
tivity comfortable and disguise it from himself. But 
the chain will gall, though wreathed with roses. After 

1 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 96. 


Montezuma's breakfast, which was a light meal of fruits 
or vegetables, Cortes or some of his officers usually 
waited on him, to learn if he had any commands for 
them. He then devoted some time to business. He 
gave audience to those of his subjects who had petitions 
to prefer or suits to settle. The statement of the party 
was drawn up on the hieroglyphic scrolls, which were 
submitted to a number of counsellors or judges, who 
assisted him with their advice on these occasions. 
Envoys from foreign states or his own remote provinces 
and cities were also admitted, and the Spaniards were 
careful that the same precise and punctilious etiquette 
should be maintained towards the royal puppet as when 
in the plenitude of his authority. 

After business was despatched, Montezuma often 
amused himself with seeing the Castilian troops go 
through their military exercises. He, too, had been a 
soldier, and in his prouder days had led armies in the 
field. It was very natural he should take an interest in 
the novel display of European tactics and discipline. 
At other times he would challenge Cortes or his officers 
to play at some of the national games. A favorite one 
was called totoloque, played with golden balls aimed at 
a target or mark of the same metal. Montezuma usually 
staked something of value, — precious stones or ingots 
of gold. He lost with good humor j indeed, it was of 
little consequence whether he won or lost, since he 
generally gave away his winnings to his attendants. 2 
He had, in truth, a most munificent spirit. His 
enemies accused him of avarice. But, if he were 

2 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 97. 


avaricious, it could have been only that he might have 
the more to give away. 

Each of the Spaniards had several Mexicans, male 
and female, who attended to his cooking and various 
other personal offices. Cortes, considering that the 
maintenance of this host of menials was a heavy tax 
on the royal exchequer, ordered them to be dismissed, 
excepting one to be retained for each soldier. Mon- 
tezuma, on learning this, pleasantly remonstrated with 
the general on his careful economy, as unbecoming a 
royal establishment, and, countermanding the order, 
caused additional accommodations to be provided for 
the attendants, and their pay to be doubled. 

On another occasion, a soldier purloined some trinkets 
of gold from the treasure kept in the chamber, which, 
since Montezuma's arrival in the Spanish quarters, had 
been reopened. Cortes would have punished the man 
for the theft, but the emperor, interfering, said to him, 
"Your countrymen are welcome to the gold and other 
articles, if you will but spare those belonging to the 
gods." Some of the soldiers, making the most of his 
permission, carried off several hundred loads of fine 
cotton to their quarters. When this was represented 
to Montezuma, he only replied, "What I have once 
given I never take back again." 3 

While thus indifferent to his treasures, he was keenly 
sensitive to personal slight or insult. When a common 
soldier once spoke to him angrily, the tears came into 
the monarch's eyes, as it made him feel the true 
character of his impotent condition. Cortes, on be- 

3 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 84. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 8, 
cap. 4. 



coming acquainted with it, was so much incensed that 
he ordered the soldier to be hanged, but, on Monte- 
zuma's intercession, commuted this severe sentence for a 
flogging. The general was not willing that any one but 
himself should treat his royal captive with indignity, 
Montezuma was desired to procure a further mitigation 
of the punishment. But he refused, saying "that, if a. 
similar insult had been offered by any one of his subjects 
to Malinche, he would have resented it in like manner. ' ' 4 

Such instances of disrespect were very rare. Monte- 
zuma's amiable and inoffensive manners, together with 
his liberality, the most popular of virtues with the 
vulgar, made him generally beloved by the Spaniards. 5 
The arrogance for which he had been so distinguished 
in his prosperous days deserted him in his fallen 
fortunes. His character in captivity seems to have 
undergone something of that change which takes place 
in the wild animals of the forest when caged within the 
walls of the menagerie. 

The Indian monarch knew the name of every man 
in the army, and was careful to discriminate his proper 
rank. 6 For some he showed a strong partiality. He 
obtained from the general a favorite page, named 
Orteguilla, who, being in constant attendance on his 
person, soon learned enough of the Mexican language 
to be of use to his countrymen. Montezuma took 

4 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 5. 

5 " En esto era tan bien mirado, que todos le queriamos con gran 
amor, porque verdaderamente era gran senor en todas las cosas que 
le viamos hazer." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 100. 

6 " Y el bien conocia & todos, y sabia nuestros nombres, y aun cali- 
dades, y era tan bueno que i. todos nos daua joyas, 4. otros mantas 6 
Indias hermosas." Ibid., cap. 97. 


great pleasure, also, in the society of Velasquez de 
Leon, the captain of his guard, and Pedro de Alvarado, 
Tonatiuh, or "the Sun," as he was called by the 
Aztecs, from his yellow hair and sunny countenance. 
The sunshine, as events afterwards showed, could some- 
times be the prelude to a terrible tempest. 

Notwithstanding the care taken to cheat him of the 
tedium of captivity, the royal prisoner cast a wistful 
glance, now and then, beyond the walls of his residence 
to the ancient haunts of business or pleasure. He 
intimated a desire to offer up his devotions at the great 
temple, where he was once so constant in his worship. 
The suggestion startled Cortes. It was too reasonable, 
however, for him to object to it without wholly dis- 
carding the appearances which he was desirous to main- 
tain. But he secured Montezuma's return by sending 
an escort with him of a hundred and fifty soldiers 
under the same resolute cavaliers who had aided in 
his seizure. He told him, also, that in case of any 
attempt to escape his life would instantly pay the 
forfeit. Thus guarded, the Indian prince visited the 
teocalli, where he was received with the usual state, and, 
after performing his devotions, he returned again to 
his quarters. 7 

It may well be believed that the Spaniards did not 
neglect the opportunity afforded by his residence with 
them, of instilling into him some notions of the Chris- 
tian doctrine. Fathers Diaz and Olmedo exhausted 
all their battery of logic and persuasion, to shake his 
faith in his idols, but in vain. He, indeed, paid a 
most edifying attention, which gave promise of better 

7 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 98. 


things. But the conferences always closed with the 
declaration that " the God of the Christians was good, 
but the gods of his own country were the true gods for 
him." 8 It is said, however, they extorted a promise 
from him that he would take part in no more human 
sacrifices. Yet such sacrifices were of daily occurrence 
in the great temples of the capital ; and the people were 
too blindly attached to their bloody abominations for 
the Spaniards to deem it safe, for the present at least, 
openly to interfere. 

Montezuma showed, also, an inclination to engage 
in the pleasures of the chase, of which he once was 
immoderately fond. He had large forests reserved for 
the purpose on the other side of the lake. As the 
Spanish brigantines were now completed, Cortes pro- 
posed to transport him and his suite across the water 
in them. They were of a good size, strongly built. 
The largest was mounted with four falconets, or small 
guns. It was protected by a gayly-colored awning 
stretched over the deck, and the royal ensign of Cas- 
tile floated proudly from the mast. On board of this 
vessel, Montezuma, delighted with the opportunity of 
witnessing the nautical skill of the white men, em- 
barked with a train of Aztec nobles and a numerous 
guard of Spaniards. A fresh breeze played on the 
waters, and the vessel soon left behind it the swarms 
of light pirogues which darkened their surface. She 
seemed like a thing of life in the eyes of the aston- 

8 According to Solis, the Devil closed his heart against these good 
men; though, in the historian's opinion, there is no evidence that this 
evil counsellor actually appeared and conversed with Montezuma 
after the Spaniards had displayed the Cross in Mexico. Conquista, 
lib. 3, cap. 20. 


ished natives, who saw her, as if disdaining human 
agency, sweeping by with snowy pinions as if on the 
wings of the wind, while the thunders from her sides, 
now for the first time breaking on the silence of this 
"inland sea," showed that the beautiful phantom was 
clothed in terror. 9 

The royal chase was well stocked with game ; 
some of which the emperor shot with arrows, and 
others were driven by the numerous attendants into 
nets. 10 In these woodland exercises, while he ranged 
over his wild domain, Montezuma seemed to enjoy 
again the sweets of liberty. It was but the shadow of 
liberty, however ; as in his quarters, at home, he en- 
joyed but the shadow of royalty. At home or abroad, 
the eye of the Spaniard was always upon him. 

But, while he resigned himself without a struggle to 
his inglorious fate, there were others who looked on 
it with very different emotions. Among them was his 
nephew Cacama, lord of Tezcuco, a young man not 
more than twenty-five years of age, but who enjoyed 
great consideration from his high personal qualities, 
especially his intrepidity of character. He was the 
same prince who had been sent by Montezuma to wel- 
come the Spaniards on their entrance into the Valley ; 
and, when the question of their reception was first 
debated in the council, he had advised to admit them 

9 Bemal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 99. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 88. 

10 He sometimes killed his game with a tube, a sort of air-gun, 
through which he blew little balls at birds and rabbits. " La Caca a 
que Motecuma iba por la Laguna, era i. tirar i. Pajaros, i. Conejos, 
con Cerbatana, de la qual era diestro." Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 
2, lib. 8, cap. 4. 

Vol. II. 16 


honorably as ambassadors of a foreign prince, and, if 
they should prove different from what they pretended, 
it would be time enough then to take up arms against 
them. That time, he thought, had now come. 

In a former part of this work, the reader has been 
made acquainted with the ancient history of the Acol- 
huan or Tezcucan monarchy, once the proud rival of 
the Aztec in power, and greatly its superior in civil- 
ization." Under its last sovereign, Nezahuilpilli, its 
territory is said to have been grievously clipped by the 
insidious practices of Montezuma, who fomented dis- 
sensions and insubordination among his subjects. On 
the death of the Tezcucan prince, the succession was 
contested, and a bloody war ensued between his eldest 
son, Cacama, and an ambitious younger brother, Ixtlil- 
xochitl. This was followed by a partition of the king- 
dom, in which the latter chieftain held the mountain 
districts north of the capital, leaving the residue to 
Cacama. Though shorn of a large part of his hered- 
itary domain, the city was itself so important that the 
lord of Tezcuco still held a high rank among the petty 
princes of the Valley. His capital, at the time of the 
Conquest, contained, according to Cortes, a hundred 
and fifty thousand inhabitants.* 2 It was embellished 
with noble buildings, rivalling those of Mexico itself, 

11 Ante, Book I. Chap. 6. 

12 " J2 Uimase esta Ciudad Tezcuco, y serd de hasta treinta mil 
Vecinos." (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 94.) According to the licen- 
tiate Zuazo, double that number, — sesenta mil Vecinos. (Carta, MS.) 
Scarcely probable, as Mexico had no more. Toribio speaks of it as 
covering a league one way by six another! (Hist, de los Indios, 
MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.) This must include the environs to a consider- 
able extent. The language of the old chroniclers is not the most precise. 



and the ruins still to be met with on its ancient site 
attest that it was once the abode of princes. 13 

The young Tezcucan chief beheld with indignation 
and no slight contempt the abject condition of his 
uncle. He endeavored to rouse him to manly exer- 
tion, but in vain. He then set about forming a league 
with several of the neighboring caciques to rescue his 
kinsman and to break the detested yoke of the strangers. 
He called on the lord of Iztapalapan, Montezuma's 
brother, the lord of Tlacopan, and some others of 
most authority, all of whom entered heartily into his 
views. He then urged the Aztec nobles to join them ; 
but they expressed an unwillingness to take any step 
not first sanctioned by the emperor. 14 They enter- 
's A description of the capital in its glory is thus given by an eye- 
witness. " Esta Ciudad era la segunda cosa principal de la tierra, y 
asi habia en Tezcuco muy grandes edificios de templos del Demonio, 
y muy gentiles casas y aposentos de Senores, entre los cuales, fue muy 
cosa de ver la casa del Senor principal, asi la vieja con su hucrta cer- 
cada de mas de mil cedros muy grandes y muy hermosos, de los cuales 
hoy dia estan los mas en pie, aunque la casa estd asolada, otra casa 
tenia que se podia aposentar en ella un egercito, con muchos jardines, 
y un muy grande estanque, que por debajo de tierra solian entrar a 
el con barcas." (Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.) 
The last relics of this palace were employed in the fortifications of the 
city in the revolutionary war of 1810. (Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los 
Esp., p. 78, nota.) Tezcuco is now an insignificant little place, with a 
population of a few thousand inhabitants. Its architectural remains, 
as still to be discerned, seem to have made a stronger impression on 
Mr. Bullock than on most travellers. Six Months in Mexico, chap. 27. 
'4 " Cacama reprehendio asperamente a la Nobleza Mexicana porque 
consentia hacer semejantes desacatos A quatro Estrangeros y que no 
les mataban ; se escusaban con decirles les iban i. la mano y no les 
consentian tomar las Armas para libertarlo, y tomar si una tan gran 
deshonra como era la que los Estrangeros les habian hecho en prender 
a su senor, y quemar a Quauhpopocatzin, los demas sus Hijos y Deu- 


tained, undoubtedly, a profound reverence for their 
master ; but it seems probable that jealousy of the per- 
sonal views of Cacama had its influence on their deter- 
mination. Whatever were their motives, it is certain 
that by this refusal they relinquished the best oppor- 
tunity ever presented for retrieving their sovereign's 
independence and their own. 

These intrigues could not be conducted so secretly 
as not to reach the ears of Cortes, who, with his char- 
acteristic promptness, would have marched at once on 
Tezcuco and trodden out the spark of "rebellion" 15 
before it had time to burst into a flame. But from this 
he was dissuaded by Montezuma, who represented that 
Cacama was a man of resolution, backed by a powerful 
force, and not to be put down without a desperate 
struggle. He consented, therefore, to negotiate, and 
sent a message of amicable expostulation to the ca- 
cique. He received a haughty answer in return. Cortes 
rejoined in a more menacing tone, asserting the su- 

dos sin culpa, con las Armas y Municion que tenian para la defenza y 
guarda de la ciudad, y de su autoridad tomar para si los tesoros del 
Rev, y de los Dioses, y otras libertades y desvergiienzas que cada dia 
pasaban, y aunque todo esto vehian lo disimulaban por no enojar & 
Motecuhzoma que tan amigo y casado estaba con ellos." Ixtlilxo- 
chitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 86. 

J 5 It is the language of Cortes. " Y este senor se rebelb, assf contra 
el servicio de Vuestra Alteza, a quien se habia ofrecido, como contra 
el dicho Muteczuma." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 95. — Voltaire, with 
his quick eye for the ridiculous, notices this arrogance in his tragedy 
of Alzire : 

" Tu vois de ces tyrans la fureur despotique : 
lis pensent que pour eux le Ciel fit l'Amerique, 
Qu'ils en sont nes les Rois ; et Zamore a leurs yeux, 
Tout souverain qu'il fut, n'est qu'un seditieux." 

Alzire, act 4, sc. 3. 



premacy of his own sovereign, the emperor of Castile. 
To this Cacama replied, " He acknowledged no such 
authority ; he knew nothing of the Spanish sovereign 
or his people, nor did he wish to know anything of 
them." 16 Montezuma was not more successful in his 
application to Cacama to come to Mexico and allow 
him to mediate his differences with the Spaniards, 
with whom he assured the prince he was residing as a 
friend. But the young lord of Tezcuco was not to be 
so duped. He understood the position of his uncle, 
and replied " that when he did visit his capital it would 
be to rescue it, as well as the emperor himself, and 
their common gods, from bondage. He should come, 
not with his hand in his bosom, but on his sword, — to 
drive out the detested strangers who had brought such 
dishonor on their country !" ,7 

Cortes, incensed at this tone of defiance, would again 
have put himself in motion to punish it, but Monte- 
zuma interposed with his more politic arts. He had 
several of the Tezcucan nobles, he said, in his pay ; l8 
and it would be easy, through their means, to secure 
Cacama's person, and thus break up the confederacy, 
at once, without bloodshed. The maintaining of a 
corps of stipendiaries in the courts of neighboring 

» 6 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 91. 

*7 " I que para reparar la Religion, i restituir los Dioses, guardar el 
Reino, cobrar la fama, i libertad A el, i A Mexico, iria de mui buena 
gana, mas no las manos en el seno, sino en la Espada, para matar los 
Espanoles, que tanta mengua, i afrenta havian hecho d la Nacion de 
Culhua." Ibid., cap. 91. 

18 " Pero que el tenia en su Tierra de el dicho Cacamazin muchas 
Personas Principales, que vivian con 61, y les daba su salario." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 95. 



princes was a refinement which showed that the Western 
barbarian understood the science of political intrigue 
as well as some of his royal brethren on the other side 
of the water. 

By the contrivance of these faithless nobles, Cacama 
was induced to hold a conference, relative to the pro- 
posed invasion, in a villa which overhung the Tezcucan 
lake, not far from his capital. Like most of the prin- 
cipal edifices, it was raised so as to admit the entrance 
of boats beneath it. In the midst of the conference, 
Cacama was seized by the conspirators, hurried on 
board a bark in readiness for the purpose, and trans- 
ported to Mexico. When brought into Montezuma's 
presence, the high-spirited chief abated nothing of 
his proud and lofty bearing. He taxed his uncle 
with his perfidy, and a pusillanimity so unworthy of 
his former character and of the royal house from 
which he was descended. By the emperor he was 
referred to Cortes, who, holding royalty but cheap in 
an Indian prince, put him in fetters. 19 

There was at this time in Mexico a brother of Ca- 
cama, a stripling much younger than himself. At 
the instigation of Cortes, Montezuma, pretending that 
his nephew had forfeited the sovereignty by his late 
rebellion, declared him to be deposed, and appointed 
Cuicuitzca in his place. The Aztec sovereigns had 
always been allowed a paramount authority in questions 

»9 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 95, 96. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 8. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 86. 
— The latter author dismisses the capture of Cacama with the com- 
fortable reflection " that it saved the Spaniards much embarrassment, 
and greatly facilitated the introduction of the Catholic faith." 


relating to the succession. But this was a most unwar- 
rantable exercise of it. The Tezcucans acquiesced, 
however, with a ready ductility, which showed their 
allegiance hung but lightly on them, or, what is more 
probable, that they were greatly in awe of the Span- 
iards ; and the new prince was welcomed with acclama- 
tions to his capital. 20 

Cortes still wanted to get into his hands the other 
chiefs who had entered into the confederacy with Ca- 
cama. This was no difficult matter. Montezuma's 
authority was absolute, everywhere but in his own 
palace. By his command, the caciques were seized, 
each in his own city, and brought in chains to Mexico, 
where Cortes placed them in strict confinement with 
their leader. 21 

He had now triumphed over all his enemies. He 
had set his foot on the necks of princes ; and the great 
chief of the Aztec empire was but a convenient tool in 
his hands for accomplishing his purposes. His first 

=° Cortes calls the name of this prince Cucuzca. (Rel. Seg., ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 96.) In the orthography of Aztec words, the general 
was governed by his ear, and was wrong nine times out of ten. — Bus- 
tamante, in his catalogue of Tezcucan monarchs, omits him altogether. 
He probably regards him as an intruder, who had no claim to be 
ranked among the rightful sovereigns of the land. (Galena de anti- 
guos Principes (Puebla, 1821), p. 21.) Sahagun has, in like manner, 
struck his name from the royal roll of Tezcuco. Hist, de Nueva- 
Espafia, lib. 8, cap. 3. 

51 The exceeding lenity of the Spanish commander, on this occasion, 
excited general admiration, if we are to credit Soils, throughout the 
Aztec empire! "Tuvo notable aplauso en todo el imperio este genero 
de castigo sin sangre, que se atribuyo al superior juicio de los Espanoles, 
porque no esperaban de Motezuma semejante moderacion." Con- 
quista, lib. 4, cap. 2. 


use of this power was to ascertain the actual resources 
of the monarchy. He sent several parties of Span- 
iards, guided by the natives, to explore the regions 
where gold was obtained. It was gleaned mostly from 
the beds of rivers, several hundred miles from the 

His next object was to learn if there existed any good 
natural harbor for shipping on the Atlantic coast, as 
the road of Vera Cruz left no protection against the 
tempests that at certain seasons swept over these seas. 
Montezuma showed him a chart on which the shores 
of the Mexican Gulf were laid down with tolerable 
accuracy. 22 Cortes, after carefully inspecting it, sent 
a commission, consisting of ten Spaniards, several of 
them pilots, and some Aztecs, who descended to Vera 
Cruz and made a careful survey of the coast for nearly 
sixty leagues south of that settlement, as far as the 
great river Coatzacualco, which seemed to offer the 
best — indeed, the only — accommodations for a safe and 
suitable harbor. A spot was selected as the site of a 
fortified post, and the general sent a detachment of a 
hundred and fifty men under Velasquez de Leon to 
plant a colony there. 

He also obtained a grant of an extensive tract of 
land in the fruitful province of Oaxaca, where he pro- 
posed to lay out a plantation for the crown. He 
stocked it with the different kinds of domesticated 
animals peculiar to the country, and with such indi- 
genous grains and plants as would afford the best 
articles for export. He soon had the estate under such 

28 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 91. 


cultivation that he assured his master, the emperor 
Charles the Fifth, it was worth twenty thousand ounces 
of gold. 23 

»3 " Damus quse dant," says Martyr, briefly, in reference to this 
valuation. (De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.) Cortes notices thp 
reports made by his people, of large and beautiful edifices in the 
province of Oaxaca. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 89.) It is here, 
also, that some of the most elaborate specimens of Indian architecture 
are still to be seen, in the ruins of Mitla. 




Cortes now felt his authority sufficiently assured 
to demand from Montezuma a formal recognition of 
the supremacy of the Spanish emperor. The Indian 
monarch had intimated his willingness to acquiesce in 
this, on their very first interview. He did not object, 
therefore, to call together his principal caciques for the 
purpose. When they were assembled, he made them 
an address, briefly stating the object of the meeting. 
They were all acquainted, he said, with the ancient 
tradition that the great Being who had once ruled over 
the land had declared, on his departure, that he should 
return at some future time and resume his sway. That 
time had now arrived. The white men had come from 
the quarter where the sun rises, beyond the ocean, to 
which the good deity had withdrawn. They were sent 
by their master to reclaim the obedience of his ancient 
subjects. For himself, he was ready to acknowledge 
his authority. "You have been faithful vassals of. 
mine," continued Montezuma, "during the many years 
that I have sat on the throne of my fathers. I now 
expect that you will show me this last act of obedience 



by acknowledging the great king beyond the waters to 
be your lord, also, and that you will pay him tribute in 
the same manner as you have hitherto done to me." 1 
As he concluded, his voice was nearly stifled by his 
emotion, and the tears fell fast down his cheeks. 

His nobles, many of whom, coming from a distance, 
had not kept pace with the changes which had been 
going on in the capital, were filled with astonishment 
as they listened to his words and beheld the voluntary 
abasement of their master, whom they had hitherto 
reverenced as the omnipotent lord of Anahuac. They 
were the more affected, therefore, by the sight of his 
distress. 2 His will, they told him, had always been 
their law. It should be so now ; and, if he thought 
the sovereign of the strangers was the ancient lord of 
their country, they were willing to acknowledge him 
as such still. The oaths of allegiance were then admin- 
istered with all due solemnity, attested by the Spaniards 
present, and a full record of the proceedings was drawn 
up by the royal notary, to be sent to Spain. 3 There 

1 "Y mucho os ruego, pues a todos os es notorio todo esto, que 
assi como hasta aqui a mi me habeis tenido, y obedecido por Seiioi 
vuestro, de aqui adelante tengais, y obedescais a este Gran Rey, pues 
61 es vuestro natural Sefior, y en su lugar tengais a. este su Capitan : 
y todos los Tributos, y Servicios, que fasta aqui a mi me haciades, los 
haced, y dad a el, porque yo assimismo tengo de contribuir, y servir 
con todo lo que me mandare." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

P- 97- 

2 " Lo qual todo les dijo llorando, con las mayores lagrimas, y sus- 
piros, que un hombre podia manifestar ; e assimismo todos aquellos 
Sefiores, que le estaban oiendo, lloraban tanto, que en gran rato no le 
pudieron responder." Ibid., loc. cit. 

3 Solis regards this ceremony as supplying what was before defective 
in the title of the Spaniards to the country. The remarks are curious, 


was something deeply touching in the ceremony by 
which an independent and absolute monarch, in obe- 
dience less to the dictates of fear than of conscience, 
thus relinquished his hereditary rights in favor of an 
unknown and mysterious power. It even moved those 
hard men who were thus unscrupulously availing them- 
selves of the confiding ignorance of the natives ; and, 
though " it was in the regular way of their own busi- 
ness," says an old chronicler, "there was not a Span- 
iard who could look on the spectacle with a dry eye" ! 4 

even from a professed casuist: "Y siendo una como insinuacion 
misteriosa del titulo que se debio despues al derecho de las armas, 
sobre justa provocacion, como lo veremos en su lugar: circunstancia 
particular, que concurrio en la conquista de Mejico para mayor justi- 
fication de aquel dominio, sobre las demas consideraciones generales 
que no solo hicieron licita la guerra en otras partes, sino legitima y 
razonable siempre que se puso en terminos de medio necesario para 
la introduccion del Evangelio." Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 3. 

* Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 101. — Solis, Conquista, loc. 
cit. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 4. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., cap. 87. — Oviedo considers the grief of Montezuma as 
sufficient proof that his homage, far from being voluntary, was ex- 
torted by necessity. The historian appears to have seen the drift of 
events more clearly than some of the actors in them. " Y en la verdad 
si como Cortes lo dice, 6 escrivio, passo en efecto, mui gran cosa me 
parece la conciencia y liberalidad de Montezuma en esta su restitu- 
tion e obediencia al Rey de Castilla, por la simple 6 cautelosa informa- 
tion de Cortes, que le podia hacer para ello ; Mas aquellas lagrimas 
con que dice, que Montezuma hizo su oration, e amonestamiento, 
despojandose de su senorio, e las de aquellos con que les respondieron 
aceptando lo que les mandaba, y exortaba, y a mi parecer su llanto 
queria decir, 6 ensenar otra cosa de lo que el, y ellos dixeron ; porque 
las obediencias que se suelen dar a los Principes con riza, 6 con 
cdmaras ; e diversidad de Musica, e leticia, ensefiales de placer, se 
suele hacer ; e no con lucto ni lagrimas, e sollozos, ni estando preso 
quien obedece ; porque como dice Marco Varron : Lo que por fuerza 
se da no es servicio sino robo." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 9. 



The rumor of these strange proceedings was soon 
circulated through the capital and the country. Men 
read in them the finger of Providence. The ancient 
tradition of Quetzalcoatl was familiar to all ; and where 
it had slept scarcely noticed in the memory, it was now 
revived with many exaggerated circumstances. It was 
said to be part of the tradition that the royal line 
of the Aztecs was to end with Montezuma,; and his 
name, the literal signification of which is "sad" or 
"angry lord," was construed into an omen of his evil 
destiny. 5 

Having thus secured this great feudatory to the 
crown of Castile, Cortes suggested that it would be 
well for the Aztec chiefs to send his sovereign such a 
gratuity as would conciliate his good will by convincing 
him of the loyalty of his new vassals. 6 Montezuma 
consented that his collectors should visit the principal 
cities and provinces, attended by a number of Span- 
iards, to receive the customary tributes, in the name of 
the Castilian sovereign. In a few weeks most of them 
returned, bringing back large quantities of gold and 
silver plate, rich stuffs, and the various commodities in 
which the taxes were usually paid. 

To this store Montezuma added, on his own account, 
the treasure of Axayacatl, previously noticed, some 
part of which had been already given to the Spaniards. 
It was the fruit of long and careful hoarding, — of ex- 

s Gomara, Cronica, cap. 92. — Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. 
p. 256. 

6 " Pareceria que ellos comenzaban a servir, y Vuestra Alteza tendria 
mas concepto de las voluntades, que a su servicio mostraban." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 98. 
Vol. II. — 1 17 



tortion, it may be, — by a prince who little dreamed of 
its final destination. When brought into the quarters, 
the gold alone was sufficient to make three great heaps. 
It consisted partly of native grains; part had been 
melted into bars ; but the greatest portion was in uten- 
sils, and various kinds of ornaments and curious toys, 
together with imitations of birds, insects, or flowers, 
executed with uncommon truth and delicacy. There 
were, also, quantities of collars, bracelets, wands, fans, 
and other trinkets, in which the gold and feather-work 
were richly powdered with pearls and precious stones. 
Many of the articles were even more admirable for the 
workmanship than for the value of the materials; 7 such, 
indeed, — if we may take the report of Cortes to one 
who would himself have soon an opportunity to judge 
of its veracity, and whom it would not be safe to trifle 
with, — as no monarch in Europe could boast in his 
dominions ! 8 

Magnificent as it was, Montezuma expressed his 
regret that the treasure was no larger. But he had 
diminished it, he said, by his former gifts to the white 
men. "Take it," he added, "Malinche, and let it 

7 Peter Martyr, distrusting some extravagance in this statement of 
Cortes, found it fully confirmed by the testimony of others. " Referunt 
non credenda. Credenda tamen, quando vir talis ad Caesarem et 
nostri collegii Indici senatores audeat exscribere. Addes insuper se 
multa prEetermittere, ne tanta recensendo sit molestus. Idem affirmant 
qui ad nos hide regrediuntur." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3. 

8 " Las quales, demas de su valor, eran tales, y tan maravillosas, 
que consideradas por su novedad, y estraneza, no tenian precio, ni es 
de creer, que alguno de todos los Principes del Mundo de quien se 
tiene noticia, las pudiesse tener tales, y de talx;alidad." Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99. — See, also, Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 9, — Beinal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 104. 



be recorded in your annals that Montezuma sent this 
present to your master. ' ' 9 

The Spaniards gazed with greedy eyes on the display 
of riches, 10 now their own, which far exceeded all 
hitherto seen in the New World, and fell nothing short 
of the El Dorado which their glowing imaginations had 
depicted. It may be that they felt somewhat rebuked 
by the contrast which their own avarice presented 
to the princely munificence of the barbarian chief. 
At least, they seemed to testify their sense of his supe 
riority by the respectful homage which they rendered 
him, as they poured forth the fulness of their grati- 
tude." They were not so scrupulous, however, as to 
manifest any delicacy in appropriating to themselves 
the donative, a small part of which was to find its way 
into the royal coffers. They clamored loudly for an 
immediate division of the spoil, which the general 
would have postponed till the tributes from the remoter 
provinces had been gathered in. The goldsmiths of 
Azcapozalco were sent for to take in pieces the larger 
and coarser ornaments, leaving untouched those of 
more delicate workmanship. Three days were con- 
sumed in this labor, when the heaps of gold were cast 
into ingots and stamped with the royal arms. 

9 " Dezilde en vuestros anales y cartas: Esto os embia vuestro buen 
vassallo Montecuma." Bernal Diaz, ubi supra. 

10 " Fluctibus auri 
Expleri calor ille nequit." 

Claudian, In Ruf., lib. 1. 

" " Y quado aquello le oyo Cortes, y todos nosotros, estuvimos espan- 
tados de la gran bondad, y liberalidad del gran Montecuma, y con 
mucho acato le quitamos todos las gorras de armas, y le diximos, que 
se lo teniamos en merced, y con palabras de mucho amor," etc. 
Bernal Diaz, ubi supra. 


Some difficulty occurred in the division of the trea- 
sure, from the want of weights, which, strange as it 
appears, considering their advancement in the arts, 
were, as already observed, unknown to the Aztecs. 
The deficiency was soon supplied by the Spaniards, 
however, with scales and weights of their own manu- 
facture, probably not the most exact. With the aid 
of these they ascertained the value of the royal fifth to 
be thirty-two thousand and four hundred pesos de oro." 
Diaz swells it to nearly four times that amount. 13 But 
their desire of securing the emperor's favor makes it 
improbable that the Spaniards should have defrauded 
the exchequer of any part of its due ; while, as Cortes 
was responsible for the sum admitted in his letter, he 
would be still less likely to overstate it. His estimate 
may be received as the true one. 

The whole amounted, therefore, to one hundred and 
sixty-two thousand pesos de oro, independently of the 
fine ornaments and jewelry, the value of which Cortes 
computes at five hundred thousand ducats more. There 
were, besides, five hundred marks of silver, chiefly in 
plate, drinking-cups, and other articles of luxury. The 

" Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99. — This estimate of the 
royal fifth is confirmed (with the exception of the four hundred ounces) 
by the affidavits of a number of witnesses cited on behalf of Cortes to 
show the amount of the treasure. Among these witnesses we find 
some of the most respectable names in the army, as Olid, Ordaz, 
Avila, the priests Olmedo and Diaz, — the last, it may be added, not 
too friendly to the general. The instrument, which is without date, is 
in the collection of Vargas Ponce. Probanza fecha & pedimento de 
Juan de Lexalde, MS. 

*3 " Eran tres montones de oro, y pesado huvo en ellos sobre sets 
cientos mil pesos, como adelante dire, sin la plata, € otras muchas 
riquezas." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 104. 



inconsiderable quantity of the silver, as compared with 
the gold, forms a singular contrast to the relative pro- 
portions of the two metals since the occupation of the 
country by the Europeans. 14 The whole amount of 
the treasure, reduced to our own currency, and making 
allowance for the change in the value of gold since 
the beginning of the sixteenth century, was about six 
million three hundred thousand dollars, or one million 
four hundred and seventeen thousand pounds sterling ; 
a sum large enough to show the incorrectness of the 
popular notion that little or no wealth was found in 
Mexico. 13 It was, indeed, small in comparison with 

"4 The quantity of silver taken from the American mines has ex- 
ceeded that of gold in the ratio of forty-six to one. (Humboldt, Essai 
politique, torn. hi. p. 401.) The value of the latter metal, says Cle- 
mencin, which on the discovery of the New World was only eleven 
times greater than that of the former, has now come to be sixteen 
times. (Memorias de la Real Acad, de Hist., torn. vi. Ilust. 20.) This 
does not vary materially from Smith's estimate made after the middle 
of the last century. (Wealth of Nations, book 1, chap. 11.) The dif- 
ference would have been much more considerable, but for the greater 
demand for silver for objects of ornament and use. 

X S Dr. Robertson, preferring the authority, it seems, of Diaz, speaks 
of the value of the treasure as 600,000 pesos. (History of America, 
vol. ii. pp. 296, 298.) The value of the peso is an ounce of silver, or 
dollar, which, making allowance for the depreciation of silver, repre- 
sented, in the time of Cortes, nearly four times its value at the present 
day. But that of the peso de oro was nearly three times that sum, or 
eleven dollars sixty-seven cents. (See ante. Book II. chap. 6, note 
18.) Robertson makes his own estimate, so much reduced below that 
of his original, an argument for doubting the existence, in any great 
quantity, of either gold or silver in the country. In accounting for 
the scarcity of the former metal in this argument, he falls into an error 
in stating that gold was not one of the standards by which the value 
of other commodities in Mexico was estimated. Comp. ante, vol. i. 
p. 148. 



that obtained by the conquerors of Peru. But few 
European monarchs of that day could boast a larger 
treasure in their coffers.* 6 

The division of the spoil was a work of some dif- 
ficulty. A perfectly equal division of it among the 
Conquerors would have given them more than three 
thousand pounds sterling apiece ; a magnificent booty ! 
But one-fifth was to be deducted for the crown. An 
equal portion was reserved for the general, pursuant to 
the tenor of his commission. A large sum was then 
allowed to indemnify him and the governor of Cuba 
for the charges of the expedition and the loss of the 
fleet. The garrison of Vera Cruz was also to be pro- 
vided for. Ample compensation was made to the 
principal cavaliers. The cavalry, arquebusiers, and 
crossbowmen each received double pay. So that when 
the turn of the common soldiers came there remained 
not more than a hundred pesos de oro for each ; a sum 
so insignificant, in comparison with their expectations, 
that several refused to accept it. 17 

Loud murmurs now rose among the men. "Was it 
for this," they said, " that we left our homes and fam- 
ilies, perilled our lives, submitted to fatigue and famine, 
and all for so contemptible a pittance ? Better to have 

16 Many of them, indeed, could boast little or nothing in their coffers. 
Maximilian of Germany, and the more prudent Ferdinand of Spain, 
left scarcely enough to defray their funeral expenses. Even as late as 
the beginning of the next century we find Henry IV. of France em- 
bracing his minister, Sully, with rapture when he informed him that, 
by dint of great economy, he had 36,000,000 livres — about 1,500,000 
pounds sterling — in his treasury. See Memoires du Due de Sully, 
torn. iii. liv. 27. 

17 " Por ser tan poco, muchos soldados huuo que no lo quisie'ron 
recebir." Bernal Diaz. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 105. 



stayed in Cuba and contented ourselves with the gains 
of a safe and easy traffic. When we gave up our share 
of the gold at Vera Cruz, it was on the assurance that 
we should be amply requited in Mexico. We have, 
indeed, found the riches we expected ; but no sooner 
seen, than they are snatched from us by the very men 
who pledged us their faith !" The malecontents even 
went so far as to accuse their leaders of appropriating 
to themselves several of the richest ornaments before 
the partition had been made ; an accusation that re- 
ceives some countenance from a dispute which arose 
between Mexia, the treasurer for the crown, and Ve- 
lasquez de Leon, a relation of the governor, and a 
favorite of Cortes. The treasurer accused this cavalier 
of purloining certain pieces of plate before they were 
submitted to the royal stamp. From words the parties 
came to blows. They were good swordsmen ; several 
wounds were given on both sides, and the affair might 
have ended fatally, but for the interference of Cortes, 
who placed both under arrest. 

He then used all his authority and insinuating elo- 
quence to calm the passions of his men. It was a 
delicate crisis. He was sorry, he said, to see them so 
unmindful of the duty of loyal soldiers and cavaliers 
of the Cross, as to brawl like common banditti over 
their booty. The division, he assured them, had been 
made on perfectly fair and equitable principles. As 
to his own share, it was no more than was warranted 
by his commission. Yet, if they thought it too much, 
he was willing to forego his just claims and divide with 
the poorest soldier. Gold, however welcome, was not 
the chief object of his ambition. If it were theirs, 


they should still reflect that the present treasure was 
little in comparison with what awaited them hereafter ; 
for had they not the whole country and its mines at 
their disposal ? It was only necessary that they should 
not give an opening to the enemy, by their discord, to 
circumvent and to crush them. With these honeyed 
words, of which he had good store for all fitting occa- 
sions, says an old soldier, 18 for whose benefit, in part, 
they were intended, he succeeded in calming the storm 
for the present ; while in private he took more effectual 
means, by presents judiciously administered, to miti- 
gate the discontents of the importunate and refractory. 
And, although there were a few of more tenacious 
temper, who treasured this in their memories against 
a future day, the troops soon returned to their usual 
subordination. This was one of those critical con- 
junctures which taxed all the address and personal 
authority of Cortes. He never shrunk from them, but 
on such occasions was true to himself. At Vera Cruz 
he had persuaded his followers to give up what was but 
the earnest of future gains. Here he persuaded them 
to relinquish these gains themselves. It was snatching 
the prey from the very jaws of the lion. Why did he 
not turn and rend him ? 

To many of the soldiers, indeed, it mattered little 
whether their share of the booty were more or less. 
Gaming is a deep-rooted passion in the Spaniard, and 
the sudden acquisition of riches furnished both the 
means and the motive for its indulgence. Cards were 
easily made out of old parchment drum-heads, and in 

18 " Palabras muy melifluas; . . . razones mui bien dichas, que las 
sabia bien proponer." Bernal Diaz, ubi supra. 


a few days most of the prize-money, obtained with so 
much toil and suffering, had changed hands, and many 
of the improvident soldiers closed the campaign as poor 
as they had commenced it. Others, it is true, more pru- 
dent, followed the example of their officers, who, with 
the aid of the royal jewellers, converted their gold into 
chains, services of plate, and other portable articles of 
ornament or use. 19 

Cortes seemed now to have accomplished the great 
objects of the expedition. The Indian monarch had 
declared himself the feudatory of the Spanish. His 
authority, his revenues, were at the disposal of the gen- 
eral. The conquest of Mexico seemed to be achieved, 
and that without a blow. But it was far from being 
achieved. One important step yet remained to be 
taken, towards which the Spaniards had hitherto made 
little progress, — the conversion of the natives. With 
all the exertions of Father Olmedo, backed by the po- 
lemic talents of the general, 20 neither Montezuma nor 
his subjects showed any disposition to abjure the faith 
of their fathers. 21 The bloody exercises of their re- 

10 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 105, 106. — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 93. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 5. 

20 " Ex jureconsulto Cortesius theologus effectus," says Martyr, in 
his pithy manner. De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 4. 

21 According to Ixtlilxochitl, Montezuma got as far on the road to 
conversion as the Credo and the Ave Maria, both of which he could 
repeat; but his baptism was postponed, and he died before receiving 
it. That he ever consented to receive it is highly improbable. I quote 
the historian's words, in which he further notices the general's unsuc- 
cessful labors among the Indians: " Cortes comenzo A dar orden de 
la conversion de los Naturales, diciendoles, que pues eran vasallos del 
Rey de Espafia que se tornasen Cristianos como el lo era, y asi se 
comenzaron & Bautizar algunos aunque fueron muy pocos, y Mo- 


ligion, on the contrary, were celebrated with all the 
usual circumstance and pomp of sacrifice before the 
eyes of the Spaniards. 

Unable further to endure these abominations, Cortes, 
attended by several of his cavaliers, waited on Monte- 
zuma. He told the emperor that the Christians could 
no longer consent to have the services of their religion 
shut up within the narrow walls of the garrison. They 
wished to spread its light far abroad, and to open to 
the people a full participation in the blessings of Chris- 
tianity. For this purpose, they requested that the great 
teocalli should be delivered up, as a fit place where their 
worship might be conducted in the presence of the 
whole city. 

Montezuma listened to the proposal with visible con- 
sternation. Amidst all his troubles he had leaned for 
support on his own faith, and, indeed, it was in obe- 
dience to it that he had shown such deference to the 
Spaniards as the mysterious messengers predicted by 
the oracles. "Why," said he, "Malinche, why will 
you urge matters to an extremity, that must surely bring 
down the vengeance of our gods, and stir up an insur- 
rection among my people, who will never endure this 
profanation of their temples?" 22 

tecuhzoma aunque pidio el Bautismo, y sabia algunas de las oraciones 
como eran el Ave Maria, y el Credo, se dilato por la Pasqua siguiente, 
que era la de Resurreccion, y fue tan desdichado que nunca alcanz6 
tanto bien, y los Nuestros con la dilacion y aprieto en que se vieron, 
se descuiddron, de que peso a todos mucho muriese sin Bautismo." 
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 87. 

22 " o Malinche, y como nos quereis echar a perder & toda esta 
ciudad, porque estaran mui enojados nuestros Dioses contra nosotros, 
y aun vuestras vidas no se" en que p-iraran." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 107. 


Cortes, seeing how greatly he was moved, made a 
sign to his officers to withdraw. When left alone with 
the interpreters, he told the emperor that he would use 
his influence to moderate the zeal of his followers, and 
persuade them to be contented with one of the sanc- 
tuaries of the teocalli. If that were not granted, they 
should be obliged to take it by force, and to roll down 
the images of his false deities in the face of the city. 
"We fear not for our lives," he added, "for, though 
our numbers are few, the arm of the true God is over 
us." Montezuma, much agitated, told him that he 
would confer with the priests. 

The result of the conference was favorable to the 
Spaniards, who were allowed to occupy one of the 
sanctuaries as a place of worship. The tidings spread 
great joy throughout the camp. They might now go 
forth in open day and publish their religion to the 
assembled capital. No time was lost in availing them- 
selves of the permission. The sanctuary was cleansed 
of its disgusting impurities. An altar was raised, sur- 
mounted by a crucifix and the image of the Virgin. 
Instead of the gold and jewels which blazed on the 
neighboring pagan shrine, its walls were decorated 
with fresh garlands of flowers ; and an old soldier was 
stationed to watch over the chapel and guard it from 

When these arrangements were completed, the whole 
army moved in solemn procession up the winding 
ascent of the pyramid. Entering the sanctuary, and 
clustering round its portals, they listened reverentially 
to the service of the mass, as it was performed by the 
fathers Olmedo and Diaz. And, as the beautiful Te 


Deutn rose towards heaven, Cortes and his soldiers, 
kneeling on the ground, with tears streaming from 
their eyes, poured forth their gratitude to the Almighty 
for this glorious triumph of the Cross. 23 

It was a striking spectacle, — that of these rude war- 
riors lifting up their orisons on the summit of this 
mountain temple, in the very capital of heathendom, 
on the spot especially dedicated to its unhallowed mys- 
teries. Side by side, the Spaniard and the Aztec knelt 
down in prayer ; and the Christian hymn mingled its 
sweet tones of love and mercy with the wild chant 
raised by the Indian priest in honor of the war-god of 
Anahuac ! It was an unnatural union, and could not 
long abide. 

A nation will endure any outrage sooner than that 
on its religion. This is an outrage both on its prin- 
ciples and its prejudices ; on the ideas instilled into 
it from childhood, which have strengthened with its 
growth, until they become a part of its nature, — 
which have to do with its highest interests here, and 
with the dread hereafter. Any violence to the religious 
sentiment touches all alike, the old and the young, the 
rich and the poor, the noble and the plebeian. Above 

2 3 This transaction is told with more discrepancy than usual by the 
different writers. Cortes assures the emperor that he occupied the 
temple, and turned out the false gods by force, in spite of the menaces 
of the Mexicans. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 106.) The improba- 
bility of this Quixotic feat startles Oviedo, who nevertheless reports it. 
(Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.) It looks, indeed, very much 
as if the general was somewhat too eager to set off his militant zeal to 
advantage in the eyes of his master. The statements of Diaz, and of 
other chroniclers, conformably to that in the text, seem far the most 
probable. Ccmp. Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. — Herrera, 
Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 6. — Argensola, Anales, lib. i, cap. 88. 



all, it touches the priests, whose personal consideration 
rests on that of their religion, and who, in a semi- 
civilized state of society, usually hold an unbounded 
authority. Thus it was with the Brahmins of India, 
the Magi of Persia, the Roman Catholic clergy in the 
Dark Ages, the priests of Ancient Egypt and Mexico. 

The people had borne with patience all the injuries 
and affronts hitherto put on them by the Spaniards. 
They had seen their sovereign dragged as a captive 
from his own palace, his ministers butchered before 
his eyes, his treasure seized and appropriated, himself 
in a manner deposed from his royal supremacy. All 
this they had seen, without a struggle to prevent it. But 
the profanation of their temples touched a deeper feel- 
ing, of which the priesthood were not slow to take 
advantage. 24 

The first intimation of this change of feeling was 
gathered from Montezuma himself. Instead of his 
usual cheerfulness, he appeared grave and abstracted, 
and instead of seeking, as he was wont, the society of 
the Spaniards, seemed rather to shun it. It was noticed, 
too, that conferences were more frequent between him 
and the nobles, and especially the priests. His little 

24 " Para mi yo tengo por marabilla, e grande, la mucha paciencia 
de Montezuma, y de los Indios principales, que assi vieron tratar sus 
Templos, e Idolos: Mas su disimulacion adelante se mostro ser otra 
cosa viendo, que vna Gente Extrangera, e de tan poco numero, les 
prendio su Sefior e porque formas los hacia tributaries, e se castigaban 
e quemaban los principales, e se aniquilaban y disipaban sus templos, 
e hasta en aquellos y sus antecesores estaban. Recia cosa me parece 
soportarla con tanta quietud ; pero adelante, como lo dird la Historia, 
mostro el tiempo lo que en el pecho estaba oculto en todos los Indios 
generalmente." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10. 
Vol. II. 18 


page, Orteguilla, who had now picked up a tolerable 
acquaintance with the Aztec, contrary to Montezuma's 
usual practice, was not allowed to attend him at these 
meetings. These circumstances could not fail to awaken 
most uncomfortable apprehensions in the Spaniards. 

Not many days elapsed, however, before Cortes 
received an invitation, or rather a summons, from the 
emperor to attend him in his apartment. The general 
went with some feelings of anxiety and distrust, taking 
with him Olid, captain of the guard, and two or three 
other trusty cavaliers. Montezuma received them with 
cold civility, and, turning to the general, told him that 
all his predictions had come to pass. The gods of his 
country had been offended by the violation of their 
temples. They had threatened the priests that they 
would forsake the city if the sacrilegious strangers were 
not driven from it, or rather sacrificed on the altars in 
expiation of their crimes. 23 The monarch assured the 
Christians it was from regard for their safety that he 
communicated this ; and, " if you have any regard for 
it yourselves," he concluded, "you will leave the 

2 S According to Herrera, it was the Devil himself who communicated 
this to Montezuma, and he reports the substance of the dialogue be- 
tween the parties. (Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. g, cap. 6.) Indeed, the 
apparition of Satan in his own bodily presence, on this occasion, is 
stoutly maintained by most historians of the time. Oviedo, a man of 
enlarged ideas on most subjects, speaks with a little more qualification 
on this : " Porque la Misa y Evangelio, que predicaban y decian los 
christianos, le [al Diablo] daban gran tormento ; y debese pensar, si 
verdad es, que esas gentes tienen tanta conversacion y comunicacion 
con nuestro adversario, como se tiene por cierto en estas Indias, que 
no le podia a nuestro enemigo placer con los misterios y sacramentos 
de la sagrada religion Christiana." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
cap. 47. 



country without delay. I have only to raise my finger, 
and every Aztec in the land will rise in arms against 
you." There was no reason to doubt his sincerity. 
For Montezuma, whatever evils had been brought on 
him by the white men, held them in reverence as a 
race more highly gifted than his own, while for several, 
as we have seen, he had conceived an attachment, 
flowing, no doubt, from their personal attentions and 
deference to himself. 

Cortes was too much master of his feelings to show 
how far he was started by this intelligence. He replied, 
with admirable coolness, that he should regret much to 
leave the capital so precipitately, when he had no 
vessels to take him from the country. If it were not 
for this, there could be no obstacle to his leaving it at 
once. He should also regret another step to which he 
should be driven, if he quitted it under these circum- 
stances, — that of taking the emperor along with him. 

Montezuma was evidently troubled by this last sug- 
gestion. He inquired how long it would take to build 
the vessels, and finally consented to send a sufficient 
number of workmen to the coast, to act under the 
orders of the Spaniards ; meanwhile, he would use his 
authority to restrain the impatience of the people, 
under the assurance that the white men would leave 
the land when the means for it were provided. He 
kept his word. A large body of Aztec artisans left 
the capital with the most experienced Castilian ship- 
builders, and, descending to Vera Cruz, began at once 
to fell the timber and build a sufficient number of ships 
to transport the Spaniards back to their own country. 
The work went forward with apparent alacrity. But 


those who had the direction of it, it is said, received 
private instructions from the general to interpose as 
many delays as possible, in hopes of receiving in the 
mean time such reinforcements from Europe as would 
enable him to maintain his ground. 26 

The whole aspect of things was now changed in the 
Castilian quarters. Instead of the security and repose 
in which the troops had of late indulged, they felt a 
gloomy apprehension of danger, not the less oppressive 
to the spirits that it was scarcely visible to the eye ; — 
like the faint speck just descried above the horizon by 
the voyager in the tropics, to the common gaze seem- 
ing only a summer cloud, but which to the experienced 
mariner bodes the coming of the hurricane. Every 
precaution that prudence could devise was taken to 
meet it. The soldier, as he threw himself on his mats 
for repose, kept on his armor. He ate, drank, slept, 
with his weapons by his side. His horse stood ready 
caparisoned, day and night, with the bridle hanging 
at the saddle-bow. The guns were carefully planted so 
as to command the great avenues. The sentinels were 

26 " E" Cortes proveio de maestros e personas que entendiesen en la 
labor de los Navios, e dixo despues a los Espafioles desta manera : 
Sefiores y hermanos, este Senor Montezuma quiere que nos vamos de 
la tierra, y conviene que se hagan Navios. Id con estos Indios e cor- 
tese la madera ; e entretanto Dios nos provehera de gente e socorro ; 
por tanto, poned tal dilacion que parezca que haceis algo y se haga 
con ella lo que nos conviene ; e siempre me escrivid e avisad que 
tales estais en la Montana, e que no sientan los Indios nuestra disi- 
mulacion. E" asi se puso por obra." (Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) So, also, Gomara. (Cronica, cap. 95.) Diaz 
denies any such secret orders, alleging that Martin Lopez, the prin- 
cipal builder, assured him they made all the expedition possible in 
getting three ships on the stocks. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 108. 



doubled, and every man, of whatever rank, took his 
turn in mounting guard. The garrison was in a state 
of siege. 27 Such was the uncomfortable position of the 
army when, in the beginning of May, 1520, six months 
after their arrival in the capital, tidings came from the 
coast which gave greater alarm to Cortes than even the 
menaced insurrection of the Aztecs. 

"i " I may say without vaunting," observes our stout-hearted old 
chronicler, Bernal Diaz, " that I was so accustomed to this way of 
life, that since the conquest of the country I have never been able to 
lie down undressed, or in a bed ; yet I sleep as sound as if I were on 
the softest down. Even when I make the rounds of my encomienda, 
I never take a bed with me, unless, indeed, I go in the company of 
other cavaliers, who might impute this to parsimony. But even then 
I throw myself on it with my clothes on. Another thing I must add, 
that I cannot sleep long in the night without getting up to look at the 
heavens and the stars, and stay a while in the open air, and this with- 
out a bonnet or covering of any sort on my head. And, thanks to 
God, I have received no harm from it. I mention these things, that 
the world may understand of what stuff we, the true Conquerors, were 
made, and how well drilled we were to arms and watching." Hist, 
de la Conquista cap. 108. 







Before explaining the nature of the tidings alluded 
to in the preceding chapter, it will be necessary to cast 
a glance over some of the transactions of an earlier 
period. The vessel, which, as the reader may remem- 
ber, bore the envoys Puertocarrero and Montejo with 
the despatches from Vera Cruz, after touching, con- 
trary to orders, at the northern coast of Cuba, and 
spreading the news of the late discoveries, held on its 
way uninterrupted towards Spain, and early in October, 
15 19, reached the little port of San Lucar. Great was 
the sensation caused by her arrival and the tidings 
which she brought ; a sensation scarcely inferior to 
that created by the original discovery of Columbus. 
For now, for the first time, all the magnificent antici- 
pations formed of the New World seemed destined to 
be realized. 

Unfortunately, there was a person in Seville at this 

time, named Benito Martin, chaplain of Velasquez, the 

governor of Cuba. No sooner did this man learn the 

arrival of the envoys, and the particulars of their story, 



than he lodged a complaint with the Casa de Contra- 
tacion, — the Royal India House, — charging those on 
board the vessel with mutiny and rebellion against 
the authorities of Cuba, as well as with treason to 
the crown. 1 In consequence of his representations, 
the ship was taken possession of by the public officers, 
and those on board were prohibited from removing 
their own effects, or anything else, from her. The 
envoys were not even allowed the funds necessary for 
the expenses of the voyage, nor a considerable sum 
remitted by Cortes to his father, Don Martin. In this 
embarrassment they had no alternative but to present 
themselves, as speedily as possible, before the emperor, 
deliver the letters with which they had been charged 
by the colony, and seek redress for their own griev- 
ances. They first sought out Martin Cortes, residing 
at Medellin, and with him made the best of their way 
to court. 

Charles the Fifth was then on his first visit to Spain 
after his accession. It was not a long one ; long 
enough, however, to disgust his subjects, and, in a 
great degree, to alienate their affections. He had 
lately received intelligence of his election to the im- 
perial crown of Germany. From that hour his eyes 
were turned to that quarter. His stay in the Peninsula 
was prolonged only that he might raise supplies for 
appeal ing with splendor on the great theatre of Europe. 

1 In the collection of MSS. made by Don Vargas Ponce, former 
President of the Academy of History, is a Memorial of this same 
Benito Martin to the emperor, setting forth the services of Velasquez 
and the ingratitude and revolt of Cortes and his followers. The paper 
is without date ; written after the arrival of the envoys, probably at 
the close of 1519 or the beginning of the following year. 


Every act showed too plainly that the diadem of his 
ancestors was held lightly in comparison with the im- 
perial bauble in which neither his countrymen nor his 
own posterity could have the slightest interest. The 
interest was wholly personal. 

Contrary to established usage, he had summoned the 
Castilian cortes to meet at Compostella, a remote town 
in the north, which presented no other advantage than 
that of being near his place of embarkation. 2 On his 
way thither he stopped some time at Tordesillas, the 
residence of his unhappy mother, Joanna " the Mad." 
It was here that the envoys from Vera Cruz presented 
themselves before him, in March, 1520. At nearly the 
same time, the treasures brought over by them reached 
the court, where they excited unbounded admiration. 3 
Hitherto, the returns from the New World had been 
chiefly in vegetable products, which, if the surest, are 
also the slowest sources of wealth. Of gold they had 
as yet seen but little, and that in its natural state or 
wrought into the rudest trinkets. The courtiers gazed 
with astonishment on the large masses of the precious 
metal, and the delicate manufacture of the various arti- 
cles, especially of the richly tinted feather-work. And, 
as they listened to the accounts, written and oral, of 
the great Aztec empire, they felt assured that the Cas- 

2 Sandoval, indeed, gives a singular reason, — that of being near the 
coast, so as to enable Chievres and the other Flemish blood-suckers 
to escape suddenly, if need were, with their ill-gotten treasures, from 
the country. Hist, de Carlos Quinto, torn. i. p. 203, ed. Pamplona, 

3 See the letter of Peter Martyr to his noble friend and pupil, the 
Marquis de Mondejar, written two months after the arrival of the 
vessel from Vera Cruz. Opus Epist., ep. 650. 



tilian ships had at length reached the golden Indies, 
which hitherto had seemed to recede before them. 

In this favorable mood there is little doubt the mon- 
arch would have granted the petition of the envoys, 
and confirmed the irregular proceedings of the Con- 
querors, but for the opposition of a person who held 
the highest office in the Indian department. This was 
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, formerly dean of Seville, 
now bishop of Burgos. He was a man of noble family, 
and had been intrusted with the direction of the colo- 
nial concerns on the discovery of the New World. On 
the establishment of the Royal Council of the Indies 
by Ferdinand the Catholic, he had been made its pres- 
ident, and had occupied that post ever since. His 
long continuance in a position of great importance and 
difficulty is evidence of capacity for business. It was 
no uncommon thing in that age to find ecclesiastics in 
high civil, and even military, employments. Fonseca 
appears to have been an active, efficient person, better 
suited to a secular than to a religious vocation. He 
had, indeed, little that was religious in his temper ; 
quick to take offence and slow to forgive. His resent- 
ments seem to have been nourished and perpetuated 
like a part of his own nature. Unfortunately, his pecu- 
liar position enabled him to display them towards some 
of the most illustrious men of his time. From pique 
at some real or fancied slight from Columbus, he had 
constantly thwarted the plans of the great navigator. 
He had shown the same unfriendly feeling towards 
the Admiral's son, Diego, the heir of his honors; 
and he now, and from this time forward, showed a 
similar spirit towards the Conqueror of Mexico. The 



immediate cause of this was his own personal relations 
with Velasquez, to whom a near relative was betrothed. 4 
Through this prelate's representations, Charles, in- 
stead of a favorable answer to the envoys, postponed 
his decision till he should arrive at Corufia, the place 
of embarkation. 5 But here he was much pressed by 
the troubles which his impolitic conduct had raised, as 
well as by preparations for his voyage. The trans- 
action of the colonial business, which, long postponed, 
had greatly accumulated on his hands, was reserved for 
the last week in Spain. But the affairs of the " young 
admiral" consumed so large a portion of this, that he 
had no time to give to those of Cortes, except, indeed, 
to instruct the board at Seville to remit to the envoys 
so much of their funds as was required to defray the 
charges of the voyage. On the 16th of May, 1520, 
the impatient monarch bade adieu to his distracted 
kingdom, without one attempt to settle the dispute 
between his belligerent vassals in the New World, and 
without an effort to promote the magnificent enterprise 
which was to secure to him the possession of an empire. 
What a contrast to the policy of his illustrious prede- 
cessors, Ferdinand and Isabella ! 6 

* Zuiiiga, Anales eclesiasticos y seculares de Sevilla (Madrid, 1677), 
fol. 414. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 5, cap. 14; lib. 9, cap. 
17, et alibi. 

5 Velasquez, it appears, had sent home an account of the doings of 
Cortes and of the vessel which touched with the treasures at Cuba, as 
early as October, 1519. Carta de Velasquez al Lie. Figueroa, MS., 
Nov. 17, 1519. 

6 " With loud music from clarions and flutes, and with great demon- 
strations of joy, they weighed anchor and unfurled their sails to the 
wind, leaving unhappy Spain oppressed with sorrows and misfortunes." 
Sandoval, Hist, de Carlos Quinto, torn. i. p. 219. 


The governor of Cuba, meanwhile, without waiting 
for support from home, took measures for redress into 
his own hands. We have seen in a preceding chapter 
how deeply he was moved by the reports of the pro- 
ceedings of Cortes, and of the treasures which his vessel 
was bearing to Spain. Rage, mortification, disappointed 
avarice, distracted his mind. He could not forgive 
himself for trusting the affair to such hands. On the 
very week in which Cortes had parted from him to 
take charge of the fleet, a capitulation had been signed 
by Charles the Fifth, conferring on Velasquez the title 
of adelantado, with great augmentation of his original 
powers. 7 The governor resolved, without loss of time, to 
send such a force to the Mexican coast as should enable 
him to assert his new authority to its full extent and to 
take vengeance on his rebellious officer. He began his 
preparations as early as October. 8 At first he proposed 
to assume the command in person. But his unwieldy 
size, which disqualified him for the fatigues incident to 
such an expedition, or, according to his own account, 
tenderness for his Indian subjects, then wasted by an 
epidemic, induced him to devolve the command on 
another. 9 

7 The instrument was dated at Barcelona, Nov. 13, 1518. Cortes 
left St. Jago the 18th of the same month. Herrera, Hist, general, 
dec. 2, lib. 3, cap. 11. 

8 Gomara (Cronica, cap. 96) and Robertson (History of America, 
vol. ii. pp. 304, 466) consider that the new dignity of adelantado stimu- 
lated the governor to this enterprise. By a letter of his own writing 
in the Muiioz collection, it appears he had begun operations some 
months previous to his receiving notice of his appointment. Carta de 
Velasquez al Senor de Xevres, Isla Fernandina, MS., Octubre 12, 


9 Carta de Velasquez al Lie. Figueroa, MS., Nov. 17, 1519. 


The person whom he selected was a Castilian hidalgo, 
named Panfilo de Narvaez. He had assisted Velas- 
quez in the reduction of Cuba, where his conduct 
cannot be wholly vindicated from the charge of inhu- 
manity which too often attaches to the early Spanish 
adventurers. From that time he continued to hold 
important posts under the government, and was a 
decided favorite with Velasquez. He was a man of 
some military capacity, though negligent and lax in his 
discipline. He possessed undoubted courage, but it 
was mingled with an arrogance, or rather overweening 
confidence in his own powers, which made him deaf to 
the suggestions of others more sagacious than himself. 
He was altogether deficient in that prudence and cal- 
culating foresight demanded in a leader who was to 
cope with an antagonist like Cortes. 10 

The governor and his lieutenant were unwearied in 
their efforts to assemble an army. They visited every 
considerable town in the island, fitting out vessels, 
laying in stores and ammunition, and encouraging 
volunteers to enlist by liberal promises. But the 
most effectual bounty was the assurance of the rich 
treasures that awaited them in the golden regions 
of Mexico. So confident were they in this expecta- 
tion, that all classes and ages vied with one another 
in eagerness to embark in the expedition, until it 
seemed as if the whole white population would 

10 The person of Narvaez is thus whimsically described by Diaz : 
' He was tall, stout-limbed, with a large head and red beard, an agree- 
able presence, a voice deep and sonorous, as if it rose from a cavern. 
He was a good horseman and valiant." Hist, de la Conquista, cap 


desert the island and leave it to its primitive oc- 

The report of these proceedings soon spread through 
the Islands, and drew the attention of the Royal Audi- 
ence of St. Domingo. This body was intrusted, at 
that time, not only with the highest judicial authority 
in the colonies, but with a civil jurisdiction, which, as 
"the Admiral" complained, encroached on his own 
rights. The tribunal saw with alarm the proposed ex- 
pedition of Velasquez, which, whatever might be its 
issue in regard to the parties, could not fail to compro- 
mise the interests of the crown. They chose accord- 
ingly one of their number, the licentiate Ayllon, a man 
of prudence and resolution, and despatched him to 
Cuba, with instructions to interpose his authority, and 
stay, if possible, the proceedings of Velasquez. 12 

On his arrival, he found the governor in the western 
part of the island, busily occupied in getting the fleet 
ready for sea. The licentiate explained to him the 
purport of his mission, and the views entertained of 
the proposed enterprise by the Royal Audience. The 
conquest of a powerful country like Mexico required 
the whole force of the Spaniards, and, if one half were 
employed against the other, nothing but ruin could 
come of it. It was the governor's duty, as a good 
subject, to forego all private animosities, and to sustain 
those now engaged in the great work by sending them 
the necessary supplies. He might, indeed, proclaim 

11 The danger of such a result is particularly urged in a memoran- 
dum of the licentiate Ayllon. Carta al Emperador Guaniguanico, 
Marzo 4, 1520, MS. 

12 Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la Real Audiencia de la EspaSola, 
Santo Domingo, Diciembre 24, 1519, MS. 

Vol. II. — k 19 


his own powers and demand obedience to them. But, 
if this were refused, he should leave the determination 
of his dispute to the authorized tribunals, and employ 
his resources in prosecuting discovery in another di- 
rection, instead of hazarding all by hostilities with his 

This admonition, however sensible and salutary, was 
not at all to the taste of the governor. He professed, 
indeed, to have no intention of coming to hostilities 
with Cortes. He designed only to assert his lawful 
jurisdiction over territories discovered under his own 
auspices. At the same time, he denied the right of 
Ayllon or of the Royal Audience to interfere in the 
matter. Narvaez was still more refractory, and, as the 
fleet was now ready, proclaimed his intention to sail 
in a few hours. In this state of things, the licentiate, 
baffled in his first purpose of staying the expedition, 
determined to accompany it in person, that he might 
prevent, if possible, by his presence, an open rupture 
between the parties. 13 

The squadron consisted of eighteen vessels, large 
and small. It carried nine hundred men, eighty of 
whom were cavalry, eighty more arquebusiers, one hun- 
dred and fifty crossbowmen, with a number of heavy 
guns, and a large supply of ammunition and military 
stores. There were, besides, a thousand Indians, 
natives of the island, who went, probably, in a menial 
capacity. 14 So gallant an armada — with one excep- 

»3 Parecer del Lie. Ayllon al Adelantado Diego Velasquez, Isla 
Fernandina, 1520, MS. 

J 4 Relacion del Lie. Ayllon, Santo Domingo, 30 de Agosto, 1520, MS. 
— Processo y Pesquiza por la Real Audiencia, MS. — According to 



tion ,s — never before rode in the Indian seas. None 
to compare with it had ever been fitted out in the 
Western World. 

Leaving Cuba early in March, 1520, Narvaez held 
nearly the same course as Cortes, and running down 
what was then called the " island of Yucatan," l6 after 
a heavy tempest, in which some of his smaller vessels 
foundered, anchored, April 23, off San Juan de Ulua. 
It was the place where Cortes, also, had first landed ; 
the sandy waste covered by the present city of Vera 

Here the commander met with a Spaniard, one of 
those sent by the general from Mexico to ascertain the 
resources of the country, especially its mineral prod- 
ucts. This man came on board the fleet, and from him 
the Spaniards gathered the particulars of all that had 
occurred since the departure of the envoys from Vera 
Cruz, — the march into the interior, the bloody battles 
with the Tlascalans, the occupation of Mexico, the 
rich treasures found in it, and the seizure of the 
monarch, by means of which, concluded the soldier, 
" Cortes rules over the land like its own sovereign, so 
that a Spaniard may travel unarmed from one end of 
the country to the other, without insult or injury." t7 

Diaz, the ordnance amounted to twenty cannon. Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 109. 

x 5 The great fleet under Ovando, 1501, in which Cortes had intended 
to embark for the New World. Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 1, lib. 4, 
cap. 11. 

16 " De alii seguimos el viage por toda la costa de la Isla de Yuca- 
tan." Relacion del Lie. Ayllon, MS. 

J 7 " La cual tierra sabe e ha visto este testigo, que el dicho Hernando 
Cortes tiene pacifica, 6 le sirven i obedecen todos los Indies ; 6 que 


His audience listened to this marvellous report with 
speechless amazement, and the loyal indignation of 
Narvaez waxed stronger and stronger, as he learned the 
value of the prize which had been snatched from his 

He now openly proclaimed his intention to march 
against Cortes and punish him for his rebellion. He 
made this vaunt so loudly, that the natives, who had 
flocked in numbers to the camp, which was soon formed 
on shore, clearly comprehended that the new-comers 
were not friends, but enemies, of the preceding. Nar- 
vaez determined, also, — though in opposition to the 
counsel of the Spaniard, who quoted the example of 
Cortes, — to establish a settlement on this unpromising 
spot ; and he made the necessary arrangements to 
organize a municipality. He was informed by the 
soldier of the existence of the neighboring colony at 
Villa Rica, commanded by Sandoval, and consisting of 
a few invalids, who, he was assured, would surrender 
on the first summons. Instead of marching against 
the place, however, he determined to send a peaceful 
embassy to display his powers and demand the submis- 
sion of the garrison. 18 

These successive steps gave serious displeasure to 

cree este testigo que lo hacen por cabsa que el dicho Hernando Cortes 
tiene preso & un Cacique que dicen Montesuma, que es Senor de lo 
mas de la tierra, a lo que este testigo alcanza, al cual los Indios obe- 
decen, e facen lo que les manda, e los Cristianos andan por toda esta 
tierra seguros, e un solo Cristiano la ha atravesado toda sin temor." 
Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la Real Audiencia de la Espafiola, 

13 Relacion del Lie. Ayllon, MS. — Demanda de Zavallos en nombre 
de Narvaez, MS. 


Ayllon, who saw they must lead to inevitable collision 
with Cortes. But it was in vain he remonstrated and 
threatened to lay the proceedings of Narvaez before 
the government. The latter, chafed by his continued 
opposition and sour rebuke, determined to rid himself 
of a companion who acted as a spy on his movements. 
He caused him to be seized and sent back to Cuba. 
The licentiate had the address to persuade the captain 
of the vessel to change her destination for St. Do- 
mingo ; and, when he arrived there, a formal report 
of his proceedings, exhibiting in strong colors the dis- 
loyal conduct of the governor and his lieutenant, was 
prepared, and despatched by the Royal Audience to 
Spain. J 9 

Sandoval meanwhile had not been inattentive to the 
movements of Narvaez. From the time of his first 
appearance on the coast, that vigilant officer, distrust- 
ing the object of the armament, had kept his eye on 
him. No sooner was he apprised of the landing of 
the Spaniards, than the commander of Villa Rica sent 
off his few disabled soldiers to a place of safety in the 
neighborhood. He then put his works in the best 
posture of defence that he could, and prepared to 
maintain the place to the last extremity. His men 
promised to stand by him, and, the more effectually 
to fortify the resolution of any who might falter, he 
ordered a gallows to be set up in a conspicuous part of 

J 9 This report is to be found among the MSS. of Vargas Ponce, in 
the archives of the Royal Academy of History. It embraces a hun- 
dred and ten folio pages, and is entitled " El Processo y Pesquiza hecha 
por la Real Audiencia de la Espafiola e tierra nuevamente descubierta. 
Para el Consejo de su Majestad." 



the town ! The constancy of his men was not put to 
the trial. 

The only invaders of the place were a priest, a 
notary, and four other Spaniards, selected for the 
mission, already noticed, by Narvaez. The ecclesi- 
astic's name was Guevara. On coming before San- 
doval, he made him a formal address, in which he 
pompously enumerated the services and claims of Ve- 
lasquez, taxed Cortes and his adherents with rebellion, 
and demanded of Sandoval to tender his submission, 
as a loyal subject, to the newly constituted authority 
of Narvaez. 

The commander of La Villa Rica was so much in- 
censed at this unceremonious mention of his compan- 
ions in arms that he assured the reverend envoy that 
nothing but respect for his cloth saved him from the 
chastisement he merited. Guevara now waxed wroth 
in his turn, and called on the notary to read the proc- 
lamation. But Sandoval interposed, promising that 
functionary that if he attempted to do so, without 
first producing a warrant of his authority from the 
crown, he should be soundly flogged. Guevara lost 
all command of himself at this, and, stamping on the 
ground, repeated his orders in a more peremptory tone 
than before. Sandoval was not a man of many words. 
He simply remarked that the instrument should be 
read to the general himself in Mexico. At the same 
time, he ordered his men to procure a number of sturdy 
tamanes, or Indian porters, on whose backs the unfor- 
tunate priest and his companions were bound like so 
many bales of goods. They were then placed under 
a guard of twenty Spaniards, and the whole caravan 



took its march for the capital. Day and night they 
travelled, stopping only to obtain fresh relays of car- 
riers; and as they passed through populous towns, 
forests, and cultivated fields, vanishing as soon as 
seen, the Spaniards, bewildered by the strangeness 
of the scene, as well as of their novel mode of convey- 
ance, hardly knew whether they were awake or in a 
dream. In this way, at the end of the fourth day, 
they reached the Tezcucan lake in view of the Aztec 
capital. 20 

Its inhabitants had already been made acquainted 
with the fresh arrival of white men on the coast. In- 
deed, directly on their landing, intelligence had been 
communicated to Montezuma, who is said (it does not 
seem probable) to have concealed it some days from 
Cortes. 21 At length, inviting him to an interview, he 
told him there was no longer any obstacle to his leaving 
the country, as a fleet was ready for him. To the 
inquiries of the astonished general, Montezuma replied 
by pointing to a hieroglyphical map sent him from the 
coast, on which the ships, the Spaniards themselves, 
and their whole equipment were minutely delineated. 
Cortes, suppressing all emotions but those of pleasure, 
exclaimed, " Blessed be the Redeemer for his mercies !" 
On returning to his quarters, the tidings were received 
by the troops with loud shouts, the firing of cannon, 

30 " £ iban espantados de que veian tatas ciudades y pueblos grandes, 
que les traian de comer, y vnos los dexavan, y otros los tomavan, y andar 
por s*u camino. Dize que iban pensando si era en cantamiento, 6 
suefio." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. III. — Demanda de 
Zavallos, MS. 

21 " Ya auia tres dias que lo sabia el Montecuma, y Cortes no sabia 
cosa ninguna." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. no. 



and other demonstrations of joy. They hailed the 
new-comers as a reinforcement from Spain. Not so 
their commander. From the first, he suspected them 
to be sent by his enemy, the governor of Cuba. He 
communicated his suspicions to his officers, through 
whom they gradually found their way among the men. 
The tide of joy was instantly checked. Alarming 
apprehensions succeeded, as they dwelt on the proba- 
bility of this suggestion and on the strength of the 
invaders. Yet their constancy did not desert them ; 
and they pledged themselves to remain true to their 
cause, and, come what might, to stand by their leader. 
It was one of those occasions that proved the entire 
influence which Cortes held over these wild adven- 
turers. All doubts were soon dispelled by the arrival 
of the prisoners from Villa Rica. 

One of the convoy, leaving the party in the suburbs, 
entered the city, and delivered a letter to the general 
from Sandoval, acquainting him with all the particulars. 
Cortes instantly sent to the prisoners, ordered them to 
be released, and furnished them with horses to make 
their entrance into the capital, — a more creditable 
conveyance than the backs of tamcmes. On their 
arrival, he received them with marked courtesy, apolo- 
gized for the rude conduct of his officers, and seemed 
desirous by the most assiduous attentions to soothe 
the irritation of their minds. He showed his good 
will still further by lavishing presents on Guevara and 
his associates, until he gradually wrought such a change 
in their dispositions that from enemies he converted 
them into friends, and drew forth many important 
particulars respecting not merely the designs of their 



leader, but the feelings of his army. The soldiers, 
in general, they said, far from desiring a rupture with 
those of Cortes, would willingly co-operate with them, 
were it not for their commander. They had no feel- 
ings of resentment to gratify. Their object was gold. 
The personal influence of Narvaez was not great, and 
his arrogance and penurious temper had already gone 
far to alienate from him the affections of his followers. 
These hints were not lost on the general. 

He addressed a letter to his rival in the most concil- 
iatory terms. He besought him not to proclaim their 
animosity to the world, and, by kindling a spirit of in- 
subordination in the natives, unsettle all that had been 
so far secured. A violent collision must be prejudicial 
even to the victor, and might be fatal to both. It was 
only in union that they could look for success. He was 
ready to greet Narvaez as a brother in arms, to share 
with him the fruits of conquest, and, if he could pro- 
duce a royal commission, to submit to his authority. 
Cortes well knew he had no such commission to 
show. 22 

Soon after the departure of Guevara and his com- 
rades, 23 the general determined to send a special envoy 
of his own. The person selected for this delicate office 
was Father Olmedo, who, through the campaign, had 
shown a practical good sense, and a talent for affairs, 
not always to be found in persons of his spiritual call- 

82 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 117-120. 

=3 " Our commander said so many kind things to them," says Diaz, 
" and anointed their fingers so plentifully with gold, that, though they 
came like roaring lions, they went home perfectly tame 1" Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 111. 


ing. He was intrusted with another epistle to Narvaez, 
of similar import with the preceding. Cortes wrote, 
also, to the licentiate Ayllon, with whose departure he 
was not acquainted, and to Andres de Duero, former 
secretary of Velasquez, and his own friend, who had 
come over in the present fleet. Olmedo was instructed 
to converse with these persons in private, as well as 
with the principal officers and soldiers, and, as far as 
possible, to infuse into them a spirit of accommodation. 
To give greater weight to his arguments, he was fur- 
nished with a liberal supply of gold. 

During this time, Narvaez had abandoned his original 
design of planting a colony on the sea-coast, and had 
crossed the country to Cempoalla, where he had taken 
up his quarters. He was here when Guevara returned 
and presented the letter of Cortes. 

Narvaez glanced over it with a look of contempt, 
which was changed into one of stern displeasure as his 
envoy enlarged on the resources and formidable char- 
acter of his rival, counselling him by all means to 
accept his proffers of amity. A different effect was 
produced on the troops, who listened with greedy ears 
to the accounts given of Cortes, his frank and liberal 
manners, which they involuntarily contrasted with those 
of their own commander, the wealth in his camp, 
where the humblest private could stake his ingot and 
chain of gold at play, where all revelled in plenty, and 
the life of the soldier seemed to be one long holiday. 
Guevara had been admitted only to the sunny side of 
the picture. 

The impression made by these accounts was confirmed 
by the presence of Olmedo. The ecclesiastic delivered 



his missives, in like manner, to Narvaez, who ran 
through their contents with feelings of anger which 
found vent in the most opprobrious invectives against 
his rival ; while one of his captains, named Salvatierra, 
openly avowed his intention to cut off the rebel's ears 
and broil them for his breakfast ! 24 Such impotent 
sallies did not alarm the stout-hearted friar, who soon 
entered into communication with many of the officers 
and soldiers, whom he found better inclined to an 
accommodation. His insinuating eloquence, backed 
by his liberal largesses, gradually opened a way into 
their hearts, and a party was formed, under the very 
eye of their chief, better affected to his rival's interests 
than to his own. The intrigue could not be conducted 
so secretly as wholly to elude the suspicions of Narvaez, 
who would have arrested Olmedo and placed him under 
confinement, but for the interposition of Duero. He 
put a stop to his further machinations by sending him 
back again to his master. But the poison was left to 
do its work. 

Narvaez made the same vaunt as at his landing, of 
his design to march against Cortes and apprehend him 
as a traitor. The Cempoallans learned with astonish- 
ment that their new guests, though the countrymen, 
were enemies of their former. Narvaez, also, pro- 
claimed his intention to release Montezuma from cap- 
tivity and restore him to his throne. It is said he 
received a rich present from the Aztec emperor, who 
entered into a correspondence with him. 23 That Mon- 

** Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 112. 
2 S Ibid., cap. in. — Oviedo says that Montezuma called a council 
of his nobles, in which it was decided to let the troops of Narvaez 


tezuma should have treated him with his usual munifi- 
cence, supposing him to be the friend of Cortes, is 
very probable. But that he should have entered into a 
secret communication, hostile to the general's interests, 
is too repugnant to the whole tenor of his conduct to 
be lightly admitted. 

These proceedings did not escape the watchful eye 
of Sandoval. He gathered the particulars partly from 
deserters who fled to Villa Rica, and partly from his own 
agents, who in the disguise of natives mingled in the 
enemy's camp. He sent a full account of them to 
Cortes, acquainted him with the growing defection of 
the Indians, and urged him to take speedy measures for 
the defence of Villa Rica if he would not see it fall into 
the enemy's hands. The general felt that it was time 
to act. 

Yet the selection of the course to be pursued was 
embarrassing in the extreme. If he remained in Mex- 
ico and awaited there the attack of his rival, it would 
give the latter time to gather round him the whole 
forces of the empire, including those of the capital 
itself, all willing, no doubt, to serve under the banners 
of a chief who proposed the liberation of their master. 
The odds were too great to be hazarded. 

If he marched against Narvaez, he must either 
abandon the city and the emperor, the fruit of all his 
toils and triumphs, or, by leaving a garrison to hold 

into the capital, and then to crash them at one blow, with those of 
Cortes ! (Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) Considering the awe 
in which the latter alone were held by the Mexicans, a more improb- 
able tale could not be devised. But nothing is too improbable for 
history, — though, according to Boileau's maxim, it may be for fiction. 


them in awe, must cripple his strength, already far too 
weak to cope with that of his adversary. Yet on this 
latter course he decided. He trusted less, perhaps, to 
an open encounter of arms than to the influence of his 
personal address and previous intrigues, to bring about 
an amicable arrangement. But he prepared himself 
for either result. 

In the preceding chapter it was mentioned that Ve- 
lasquez de Leon was sent with a hundred and fifty men 
to plant a colony on one of the great rivers emptying 
into the Mexican Gulf. Cortes, on learning the arrival 
of Narvaez, had despatched a messenger to his officer, 
to acquaint him with the fact and to arrest his further 
progress. But Velasquez had already received notice 
of it from Narvaez himself, who, in a letter written 
soon after his landing, had adjured him in the name of 
his kinsman, the governor of Cuba, to quit the banners 
of Cortes and come over to him. That officer, how- 
ever, had long since buried the feelings of resentment 
which he had once nourished against his general, to 
whom he was now devotedly attached, and who had 
honored him throughout the campaign with particular 
regard. Cortes had early seen the importance of se- 
curing this cavalier to his interests. Without waiting for 
orders, Velasquez abandoned his expedition, and com- 
menced a countermarch on the capital, when he received 
the general's commands to await him in Cholula. 

Cortes had also sent to the distant province of Chi- 
nantla, situated far to the southeast of Cholula, for a 
reinforcement of two thousand natives. They were a 
bold race, hostile to the Mexicans, and had offered 
their services to him since his residence in the metrop- 
Vol. II. 20 



olis. They used a long spear in battle, longer, indeed, 
than that borne by the Spanish or German infantry. 
Cortes ordered three hundred of their double-headed 
lances to be made for him, and to be tipped with 
copper instead of itztli. With this formidable weapon 
he proposed to foil the cavalry of his enemy. 

The command of the garrison in his absence he 
intrusted to Pedro de Alvarado, — the Tonatinh of the 
Mexicans, — a man possessed of many commanding 
qualities, of an intrepid though somewhat arrogant 
spirit, and his warm personal friend. He inculcated 
on him moderation and forbearance. He was to keep 
a close watch on Montezuma, for on the possession of 
the royal person rested all their authority in the land. 
He was to show him the deference alike due to his 
high station and demanded by policy. He was to pay 
uniform respect to the usages and the prejudices of 
the people ; remembering that though his small force 
would be large enough to overawe them in times of 
quiet, yet should they be once roused it would be swept 
away like chaff before the whirlwind. 

From Montezuma he exacted a promise to maintain 
the same friendly relations with his lieutenant which 
he had preserved towards himself. This, said Cortes, 
would be most grateful to his own master, the Spanish 
sovereign. Should the Aztec prince do otherwise, and 
lend himself to any hostile movement, he must be 
convinced that he would fall the first victim of it. 

The emperor assured him of his continued good will. 
He was much perplexed, however, by the recent events. 
Were the Spaniards at his court, or those just landed, 
the true representatives of their sovereign ? Cortes, 



who had hitherto maintained a reserve on the subject, 
now told him that the latter were indeed his country- 
men, but traitors to his master. As such, it was his 
painful duty to march against them, and, when he had 
chastised their rebellion, he should return, before his 
departure from the land, in triumph to the capital. 
Montezuma offered to support him with five thousand 
Aztec warriors ; but the general declined it, not choos- 
ing to encumber himself with a body of doubtful, 
perhaps disaffected, auxiliaries. 

He left in garrison, under Alvarado, one hundred 
and forty men, two-thirds of his whole force. * With 
these remained all the artillery, the greater part of the 
little body of horse, and most of the arquebusiers. He 
took with him only seventy soldiers, but they were men 
of the most mettle in the army and his stanch adherents. 
They were lightly armed, and encumbered with as little 
baggage as possible. Everything depended on celerity 
of movement. 

Montezuma, in his royal litter borne on the shoulders 
of his nobles, and escorted by the whole Spanish 
infantry, accompanied the general to the causeway. 
There, embracing him in the most cordial manner, 

" 6 In the Mexican edition of the letters of Cortes, it is called five 
hundred men. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 122.) But this was more 
than his whole Spanish force. In Ramusio's version of the same let- 
ter, printed as early as 1565, the number is stated as in the text. (Navi- 
gation! et Viaggi, fol. 244.) In an instrument without date, containing 
the affidavits of certain witnesses as to the management of the royal 
fifth by Cortes, it is said there were one hundred and fifty soldiers left 
in the capital under Alvarado. (Probanza fecha en la nueva Espana 
del mar oceano & pedimento de Juan Ochoa de Lexalde, en nombre 
de Hernando Cortes, MS.) The account in the Mexican edition is 
unquestionably an error. 



they parted, with all the external marks of mutual 
regard. It was about the middle of May, 1520, more 
than six months since the entrance of the Spaniards 
into Mexico. Duiing this time they had lorded it over 
the land with absolute sway. They were now leaving 
the city in hostile array, not against an Indian foe, but 
their own countrymen. It was the beginning of a long 
career of calamity, — checkered, indeed, by occasional 
triumphs, — which was yet to be run before the Conquest 
could be completed. 27 

*7 Carta de la Villa de Vera Cruz a el Emperador, MS. This letter 
without date was probably written in 1520. — See, also, for the pre- 
ceding pages, Probanza fecha a pedimento de Juan Ochoa, MS., — 
Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 1, 21; lib. 10, cap. 1, — Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 119, 120, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, 
de la Conquista, cap. 112-115, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 47. 




Traversing the southern causeway, by which they 
had entered the capital, the little party were soon on 
their march across the beautiful Valley. They climbed 
the mountain screen which Nature had so ineffectually 
drawn around it, passed between the huge volcanoes 
that, like faithless watch-dogs on their posts, have long 
since been buried in slumber, threaded the intricate 
defiles where they had before experienced such bleak 
and tempestuous weather, and, emerging on the other 
side, descended the western slope which opens on the 
wide expanse of the fruitful plateau of Cholula. 

They heeded little of what they saw on their rapid 
march, nor whether it was cold or hot. The anxiety 
of their minds made them indifferent to outward an- 
noyances ; and they had fortunately none to encounter 
from the natives, for the name of Spaniard was in itself 
a charm, — a better guard than helm or buckler to the 

In Cholula, Cortes had the inexpressible satisfac- 
tion of meeting Velasquez de Leon, with the hundred 
20* (233) 


and twenty soldiers intrusted to his command for the 
formation of a colony. That faithful officer had been 
some time at Cholula, waiting for the general's ap- 
proach. Had he failed, the enterprise of Cortes must 
have failed also. 1 The idea of resistance, with his own 
handful of followers, would have been chimerical. As 
it was, his little band was now trebled, and acquired a 
confidence in proportion. 

Cordially embracing their companions in arms, now 
knit together more closely than ever by the sense of 
a great and common danger, the combined troops 
traversed with quick step the streets of the sacred city, 
where many a dark pile of ruins told of their disastrous 
visit on the preceding autumn. They kept the high- 
road to Tlascala, and, at not many leagues' distance 
from that capital, fell in with Father Olmedo and his 
companions on their return from the camp of Narvaez, 
to which, it will be remembered, they had been sent as 
envoys. The ecclesiastic bore a letter from that com- 
mander, in which he summoned Cortes and his fol- 
lowers to submit to his authority as captain-general of 
the country, menacing them with condign punishment 
in case of refusal or delay. Olmedo gave many curious 
particulars of the state of the enemy's camp. Narvaez 
he described as puffed up by authority, and negligent 
of precautions against a foe whom he held in contempt. 
He was surrounded by a number of pompous, conceited 

1 So says Oviedo, — and with truth : " Si aquel capitan Juan Velas- 
quez de Leon no estubiera mal con su pariente Diego Velasquez, e se 
pasara con los 150 Hombres, que havia llevado a Guacacalco, d la 
parte de Panfilo de Narvaez su cuiiado, acabado oviera Cortes su 
oficio." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12. 


officers, who ministered to his vanity, and whose brag- 
gart tones the good father, who had an eye for the 
ridiculous, imitated, to the no small diversion of Cortes 
and the soldiers. Many of the troops, he said, showed 
no great partiality for their commander, and were 
strongly disinclined to a rupture with their country- 
men ; a state of feeling much promoted by the accounts 
they had received of Cortes, by his own arguments and 
promises, and by the liberal distribution of the gold 
with which he had been provided. In addition to 
these matters, Cortes gathered much important intel- 
ligence respecting the position of the enemy's force 
and his general plan of operations. 

At Tlascala the Spaniards were received with a frank 
and friendly hospitality. It is not said whether any 
of the Tlascalan allies had accompanied them from 
Mexico. If they did, they went no farther than their 
native city. Cortes requested a reinforcement of six 
hundred fresh troops to attend him on his present 
expedition. It was readily granted ; but, before the 
army had proceeded many miles on its route, the In- 
dian auxiliaries fell off, one after another, and returned 
to their city. They had no personal feeling of ani- 
mosity to gratify in the present instance, as in a war 
against Mexico. It may be, too, that, although in- 
trepid in a contest with the bravest of the Indian races, 
they had had too fatal experience of the prowess of the 
white men to care to measure swords with them again. 
At any rate, they deserted in such numbers that 
Cortes dismissed the remainder at once, saying, good- 
humoredly, " He had rather part with them then than 
in the hour of trial." 


The troops soon entered on that wild district in the 
neighborhood of Perote, strewed with the wreck of 
volcanic matter, which forms so singular a contrast to 
the general character of beauty with which the scenery 
is stamped. It was not long before their eyes were 
gladdened by the approach of Sandoval and about sixty 
soldiers from the garrison of Vera Cruz, including 
several deserters from the enemy. It was a most im- 
portant reinforcement, not more on account of the 
numbers of the men than of the character of the com- 
mander, in every respect one of the ablest captains in 
the service. He had been compelled to fetch a circuit 
in order to avoid falling in with the enemy, and had 
forced his way through thick forests and wild mountain- 
passes, till he had fortunately, without accident, reached 
the appointed place of rendezvous and stationed him- 
self once more under the banner of his chieftain. 2 

At the same place, also, Cortes was met by Tobillos, 
a Spaniard whom he had sent to procure the lances 
from Chinantla. They were perfectly well made, after 
the pattern which had been given, — double-headed 
spears, tipped with copper, and of great length. To- 
billos drilled the men in the exercise of this weapon, 
the formidable uses of which, especially against horse, 
had been fully demonstrated, towards the close of the 
last century, by the Swiss battalions, in their encoun- 
ters with the Burgundian chivalry, the best in Europe. 3 

a Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 123, 124. — Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 115-117. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. 12. 

3 But, although irresistible against cavalry, the long pike of the Ger- 
man proved no match for the short sword and buckler of the Spaniard, 


Cortes now took a review of his army, — if so paltry 
a force may be called an army, — and found their num- 
bers were two hundred and sixty-six, only five of whom 
were mounted. A few muskets and cross-bows were 
sprinkled among them. In defensive armor they were 
sadly deficient. They were for the most part cased in 
the quilted doublet of the country, thickly stuffed with 
cotton, the escmipil, recommended by its superior light- 
ness, but which, though competent to turn the arrow 
of the Indian, was ineffectual against a musket-ball. 
Most of this cotton mail was exceedingly out of repair, 
giving evidence, in its unsightly gaps, of much rude 
service and hard blows. Few, in this emergency, but 
would have given almost any price — the best of the 
gold chains which they wore in tawdry display over 
their poor habiliments — for a steel morion or cuirass, to 
take the place of their own hacked and battered armor. 4 

Under this coarse covering, however, they bore 
hearts stout and courageous as ever beat in human 
bosoms. For they were the heroes, still invincible, 
of many a hard-fought field, where the odds had been 
incalculably against them. They had large experience 
of the country and of the natives, and knew well the 
character of their own commander, under whose eye 
they had been trained till every movement was in 
obedience to him. The whole body seemed to con- 
in the great battle of Ravenna, fought a few years before this, 1512. 
Machiavelli makes some excellent reflections on the comparative merit 
of these arms. Arte della Guerra, lib. 2, ap. Opere, torn. iv. p. 67. 

4 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 118. — " Tambien quiero 
dezir la gran necessidad que teniamos de armas, que por vn peto, 6 
capacete, 6 casco, 6 babera de hierro, dieramos aquella noche quato 
nos pidiera por ello, y todo quato auiamos ganado." Cap. 122. 


stitute but a single individual, in respect of unity of 
design and of action. Thus its real effective force 
was incredibly augmented ; and, what was no less 
important, the humblest soldier felt it to be so. 

The troops now resumed their march across the 
table-land, until, reaching the eastern slope, their 
labors were lightened, as they descended towards the 
broad plains of the tierra calientc, spread out like a 
boundless ocean of verdure below them. At some 
fifteen leagues' distance from Cempoalla, where Nar- 
vaez, as has been noticed, had established his quarters, 
they were met by another embassy from that com- 
mander. It consisted of the priest, Guevara, Andres 
de Duero, and two or three others. Duero, the fast 
friend of Cortes, had been the person most instru- 
mental, originally, in obtaining him his commission 
from Velasquez. They now greeted each other with a 
warm embrace, and it was not till after much prelimi- 
nary conversation on private matters that the secretary 
disclosed the object of his visit. 

He bore a letter from Narvaez, couched in terms 
somewhat different from the preceding. That officer 
requiied, indeed, the acknowledgment of his para- 
mount authority in the land, but offered his vessels to 
transport all, who desired it, from the country, together 
with their treasures and effects, without molestation or 
inquiry. The more liberal tenor of these terms was, 
doubtless, to be ascribed to the influence of Duero. 
The secretary strongly urged Cortes to comply with 
them, as the most favorable that could be obtained, 
and as the only alternative affording him a chance of 
safety in his desperate condition. " For, however 



valiant your men may be, how can they expect," he 
asked, " to face a force so much superior in numbers 
and equipment as that of their antagonist?" But 
Cortes had set his fortunes on the cast, and he was not 
the man to shrink from it. " If Narvaez bears a royal 
commission," he returned, "I will readily submit to 
him. But he has produced none. He is a deputy of 
my rival, Velasquez. For myself, I am a servant of 
the king ; I have conquered the country for him ; and 
for him I and my brave followers will defend it, be 
assured, to the last drop of our blood. If we fall, it 
will be glory enough to have perished in the discharge 
of our duty." 5 

His friend might have been somewhat puzzled to 
comprehend how the authority of Cortes rested on a 
different ground from that of Narvaez ; and if they both 
held of the same superior, the governor of Cuba, why 
that dignitary should not be empowered to supersede 
his own officer, in case of dissatisfaction, and appoint 
a substitute. 6 But Cortes here reaped the full benefit 

5 "Yo les respond!, que no via provision de Vuestra Alteza, por 
donde le debiesse entregar la Tierra ; e que si alguna trahia, que la 
presentasse ante mi, y ante el Cabildo de la Vera Cruz, segun orden, 
y costumbre de Espafia, y que yo estaba presto de la obedecer, y 
cumplir ; y que hasta tanto, por ningun interese, ni partido haria lo 
que el decia ; dntes yo, y los que conmigo estaban, moririamos en 
defensa de la Tierra, pues la habiamos ganado, y tenido por Vuestra 
Magestad pacifica, y segura, y por no ser Traydores y desleales & 
nuestro Rey. . . . Considerando, que morir en servicio de mi Rey, y 
por defender, y amparar sus Tierras, y no las dejar usurpar, a mi, y & 
los de mi Compania se nos seguia farta gloria." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 
ap. Lorenzana, pp. 125-127. 

6 Such are the natural reflections of Oviedo, speculating on the 
matter some years later. ' E tambien que me parece donaire, 6 no 


of that legal fiction, if it may be so termed, by which 
his commission, resigned to the self-constituted munici- 
pality of Vera Cruz, was again derived through that 
body from the crown. The device, indeed, was too 
palpable to impose on any but those who chose to be 
blinded. Most of the army were of this number. To 
them it seemed to give additional confidence, in the 
same manner as a strip of painted canvas, when sub- 
stituted, as it has sometimes been, for a real parapet 
of stone, has been found not merely to impose on the 
enemy, but to give a sort of artificial courage to the 
defenders concealed behind it. 7 

Duero had arranged with his friend in Cuba, when 
he took command of the expedition, that he himself 
was to have a liberal share of the profits. It is said 
that Cortes confirmed this arrangement at the present 
juncture, and made it clearly for the other's interest 
that he should prevail in the struggle with Narvaez. 
This was an important point, considering the position 
of the secretary. 8 From this authentic source the gen- 
eral derived much information respecting the designs 
of Narvaez, which had escaped the knowledge of 

bastante la escusa que Cortes da para fundar e justificar su negocio, 
que es decir, que el Narvaez presentase las provisiones que llevaba de 
S. M. Como si el dicho Cortes oviera ido A aquella tierra por man- 
dado de S. M. 6 con mas, ni tanta autoridad como llebaba Narvaez; 
pues que es claro e notorio, que el Adelantado Diego Velasquez, que 
embi6 & Cortes, era parte, segun derecho, para le embiar &. remover, 
y el Cortes obligado A le obedecer. No quiero decir mas en esto por 
no ser odioso A ninguna de las partes." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 12. 

7 More than one example of this ruse is mentioned by Mariana in 
Spanish history, though the precise passages have escaped my memory. 

8 Bernal Diaz. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 119. 


Olmedo. On the departure of the envoys, Cortes in- 
trusted them with a letter for his rival, a counterpart 
of that which he had received from him. This show 
of negotiation intimated a desire on his part to post- 
pone, if not avoid, hostilities, which might the better 
put Narvaez off his guard. In the letter he summoned 
that commander and his followers to present themselves 
before him without delay, and to acknowledge his 
authority as the representative of his sovereign. He 
should otherwise be compelled to proceed against them 
as rebels to the crown ! 9 With this missive, the 
vaunting tone of which was intended quite as much 
for his own troops as the enemy, Cortes dismissed the 
envoys. They returned to disseminate among their 
comrades their admiration of the general, and of his 
unbounded liberality, of which he took care they 
should experience full measure, and they dilated on 
the riches of his adherents, who, over their wretched 
attire, displayed, with ostentatious profusion, jewels, 
ornaments of gold, collars, and massive chains winding 
several times round their necks and bodies, the rich 
spoil of the treasury of Montezuma. 

The army now took its way across the level plains 
of the tierra caliente, on which Nature has exhausted 

9 " 6 assimismo mandaba, y mande" por el dicho Mandamiento d 
todas las Personas, que con el dicho Narvaez estaban, que no tubies- 
sen, ni obedeciessen al dicho Narvaez por tal Capitan, ni Justicia ; 
antes, dentro de cierto termino, que en el dicho Mandamiento senale, 
pareciessen ante mi, para que yo les dijesse, lo que debian hacer en 
servicio de Vuestra Alteza : con protestacion, que lo contrario haci- 
endo, procederia contra ellos, como contra Traydores, y aleves, y 
malos Vasallos, que se rebelaban contra su Rey, y quieren usurpar sus 
Tierras, y Senorios." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 127. 
Vol. II. — l 21 



all the wonders of creation ; it was covered more 
thickly then than at the present day with noble forests, 
where the towering cottonwood-tree, the growth of 
ages, stood side by side with the light bamboo or 
banana, the product of a season, each in its way attest- 
ing the marvellous fecundity of the soil, while innumer- 
able creeping flowers, muffling up the giant branches 
of the trees, waved in bright festoons above their heads, 
loading the air with odors. But the senses of the 
Spaniards were not open to the delicious influences of 
nature. Their minds were occupied by one idea. 

Coming upon an open reach of meadow, of some 
extent, they were at length stopped by a river, or 
rather stream, called Rio dc Canons, "the River of 
Canoes," of no great volume ordinarily, but swollen 
at this time by excessive rains. It had rained hard 
that day, although at intervals the sun had broken forth 
with intolerable fervor, affording a good specimen of 
those alternations of heat and moisture which give such 
activity to vegetation in the tropics, where the process 
of forcing seems to be always going on. 

The river was about a league distant from the camp 
of Narvaez. Before seeking out a practicable ford by 
which to cross it, Cortes allowed his men to recruit 
their exhausted strength by stretching themselves on 
the ground. The shades of evening had gathered 
round ; and the rising moon, wading through dark 
masses of cloud, shone with a doubtful and interrupted 
light. It was evident that the storm had not yet spent 
its fury. 10 Cortes did not regret this. He had made 

10 «■ y aun llouia de rato en rato, y entonces salia la Luna, que quado 
all! llegamos hazia muy escuro, y llouia, y tambien la escuridad ayud6." 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 122. 



up his mind to an assault that very night, and in the 
darkness and uproar of the tempest his movements 
would be most effectually concealed. 

Before disclosing his design, he addressed his men 
in one of those stirring, soldierly harangues to which 
he had recourse in emergencies of great moment, as if 
to sound the depths of their hearts, and, where any 
faltered, to reanimate them with his own heroic spirit 
He briefly recapitulated the great events of the cam- 
paign, the dangers they had surmounted, the victories 
they had achieved over the most appalling odds, the 
glorious spoil they had won. But of this they were 
now to be defrauded ; not by men holding a legal 
warrant from the crown, but by adventurers, with no 
better title than that of superior force. They had es- 
tablished a claim on the gratitude of their country and 
their sovereign. This claim was now to be dishonored, 
their very services were converted into crimes, and 
their names branded with infamy as those of traitors. 
But the time had at last come for vengeance. God 
would not desert the soldier of the Cross. Those whom 
he had carried victorious through greater dangers would 
not be left to fail now. And, if they should fail, better 
to die like brave men on the field of battle, than, with 
fame and fortune cast away, to perish ignominiously 
like slaves on the gibbet. This last point he urged 
home upon his hearers ; well knowing there was 
not one among them so dull as not to be touched 
by it. 

They responded with hearty acclamations, and Velas- 
quez de Leon, and de Lugo, in the name of the rest, 
assured their commander, if they failed, it should be 



his fault, not theirs. They would follow wherever he 
led. The general was fully satisfied with the temper 
of his soldiers, as he felt that his difficulty lay not in 
awakening their enthusiasm, but in giving it a right 
direction. One thing is remarkable. He made no 
allusion to the defection which he knew existed in the 
enemy's camp. He would have his soldiers, in this 
last pinch, rely on nothing but themselves. 

He announced his purpose to attack the enemy that 
very night, when he should be buried in slumber, and 
the friendly darkness might throw a veil over their own 
movements and conceal the poverty of their numbers. 
To this the troops, jaded though they were by inces- 
sant marching, and half famished, joyfully assented. 
In their situation, suspense was the worst of evils. He 
next distributed the commands among his captains. To 
Gonzalo de Sandoval he assigned the important office 
of taking Narvaez. He was commanded, as alguacil 
mayor, to seize the person of that officer as a rebel to 
his sovereign, and, if he made resistance, to kill him 
on the spot." He was provided with sixty picked men 
to aid him in this difficult task, supported by several 
of the ablest captains, among whom were two of the 
Alvarados, de Avila, and Ordaz. The largest division 

** The Attorney of Narvaez, in his complaint before the crown, ex- 
patiates on the diabolical enormity of these instructions. " El dho 
Fernando Corttes como traidor aleboso, sin apercibir al dho mi partte, 
con un diabolico pensam t0 e infernal osadia, en contemtto e menos- 
precio de V. M. 6 de sus provisiones R. s , no mirando ni asattando la 
lealtad q e debia a V. M., el dho Corttes dio un Mandamientto al dho 
Gonzalo de Sandobal para que prendiese al dho Pdnfilo de Narvaez, 
6 si se defendiese q e lo mattase." Demanda de Zavallos en nombre 
de Narvaez, MS. 


of the force was placed under Cristoval de Olid, or, 
according to some authorities, of Pizarro, one of that 
family so renowned in the subsequent conquest of Peru. 
He was to get possession of the artillery, and to cover 
the assault of Sandoval by keeping those of the enemy 
at bay who would interfere with it. Cortes reserved 
only a body of twenty men for himself, to act on any 
point that occasion might require. The watch-word 
was Espiritu Santo, it being the evening of Whitsunday. 
Having made these arrangements, he prepared to cross 
the river. 12 

During the interval thus occupied by Cortes, Nar- 
vaez had remained at Cempoalla, passing his days in 
idle and frivolous amusement. From this he was at 
length roused, after the return of Duero, by the remon- 
strances of the old cacique of the city. "Why are you 
so heedless?" exclaimed the latter; "do you think 
Malinche is so ? Depend on it, he knows your situa- 
tion exactly, and, when you least dream of it, he will 
be upon you. ' ' ,3 

Alarmed at these suggestions and those of his friends, 
Narvaez at length put himself at the head of his troops, 
and, on the very day on which Cortes arrived at the 
River of Canoes, sallied out to meet him. But, when 
he had reached this barrier, Narvaez saw no sign of an 
enemy. The rain, which fell in torrents, soon drenched 

12 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12, 47. — Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 122. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 
io, cap. 1. 

'3 " Que hazeis, que estais mui descuidado? pensais que Malinche, 
y los Teules que trae cosigo, que son assi como vosotros? Pues yo 
os digo, que quado no os cataredes, sera aqui, y os matara." Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 121. 


the soldiers to the skin. Made somewhat effeminate by 
their long and luxurious residence at Cempoalla, they 
murmured at their uncomfortable situation. "Of what 
use was it to remain there fighting with the elements ? 
There was no sign of an enemy, and little reason to 
apprehend his approach in such tempestuous weather. 
It would be wiser to return to Cempoalla, and in the 
morning they should be all fresh for action, should 
Cortes make his appearance." 

Narvaez took counsel of these advisers, or rather of 
his own inclinations. Before retracing his steps, he 
provided against surprise by stationing a couple of 
sentinels at no great distance from the river, to give 
notice of the approach of Cortes. He also detached a 
body of forty horse in another direction, by which he 
thought it not improbable the enemy might advance on 
Cempoalla. Having taken these precautions, he fell 
back again before night on his own quarters. 

He there occupied the principal teocalli. It con- 
sisted of a stone building on the usual pyramidal basis; 
and the ascent was by a flight of steep steps on one of 
the faces of the pyramid. In the edifice or sanctuary 
above he stationed himself with a strong party of 
arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Two other teocallis in 
the same area were garrisoned by large detachments 
of infantry. His artillery, consisting of seventeen or 
eighteen small guns, he posted in the area below, and 
protected it by the remainder of his cavalry. When 
he had thus distributed his forces, he returned to his 
own quarters, and soon after to repose, with as much 
indifference as if his rival had been on the other side 
of the Atlantic, instead of a neighboring stream. 



That stream was now converted by the deluge of 
waters into a furious torrent. It was with difficulty 
that a practicable ford could be found. The slippery 
stones, rolling beneath the feet, gave way at every step. 
The difficulty of the passage was much increased by the 
darkness and driving tempest. Still, with their long 
pikes, the Spaniards contrived to make good their foot- 
ing, — at least, all but two, who were swept down by 
the fury of the current. When they had reached the 
opposite side, they had new impediments to encounter, 
in traversing a road, never good, now made doubly 
difficult by the deep mire, and the tangled brushwood 
with which it was overrun. 

Here they met with a cross, which had been raised 
by them on their former march into the interior. They 
hailed it as a good omen ; and Cortes, kneeling before 
the blessed sign, confessed his sins, and declared his 
great object to be the triumph of the holy Catholic 
faith. The army followed his example, and, having 
made a general confession, received absolution from 
Father Olmedo, who invoked the blessing of Heaven 
on the warriors who had consecrated their swords to 
the glory of the Cross. Then rising up and embrac- 
ing one another, as companions in the good cause, 
they found themselves wonderfully invigorated and 
refreshed. The incident is curious, and well illustrates 
the character of the time, — in which war, religion, and 
rapine were so intimately blended together. Adjoin- 
ing the road was a little coppice ; and Cortes, and the 
few who had horses, dismounting, fastened the animals 
to the trees, where they might find some shelter from 
the storm. They deposited there, too, their baggage, 


and such superfluous articles as would encumber their 
movements. The general then gave them a few last 
words of advice. "Everything," said he, "depends 
on obedience. Let no man, from desire of distinguish- 
ing himself, break his ranks. On silence, despatch, 
and, above all, obedience to your officers, the success 
of our enterprise depends." 

Silently and stealthily they held on their way, with- 
out beat of drum or sound of trumpet, when they 
suddenly came on the two sentinels who had been sta- 
tioned by Narvaez to give notice of their approach. 
This had been so noiseless that the vedettes were both 
of them surprised on their post, and one only, with 
difficulty, effected his escape. The other was brought 
before Cortes. Every effort was made to draw from 
him some account of the present position of Nar- 
vaez. But the man remained obstinately silent ; and, 
though threatened with the gibbet, and having a 
noose actually drawn round his neck, his Spartan 
heroism was not to be vanquished. Fortunately, no 
change had taken place in the arrangements of Nar- 
vaez since the intelligence previously derived from 

The other sentinel, who had escaped, carried the 
news of the enemy's approach to the camp. But his 
report was not credited by the lazy.soldiers whose slum- 
bers he had disturbed. " He had been deceived by his 
fears," they said, "and mistaken the noise "of the storm 
and the waving of the bushes for the enemy. Cortes 
and his men were far enough on the other side of the 
river, which they would be slow to cross in such a 
night." Narvaez himself shared in the same blind 



infatuation, and the discredited sentinel slunk abashed 
to his own quarters, vainly menacing them with the 
consequences of their incredulity. 14 

Cortes, not doubting that the sentinel's report must 
alarm the enemy's camp, quickened his pace. As he 
drew near, he discerned a light in one of the lofty 
towers of the city. "It is the quarters of Narvaez," 
he exclaimed to Sandoval, " and that light must be 
your beacon." On entering the suburbs, the Span- 
iards were surprised to find no one stirring, and no 
symptom of alarm. Not a sound was to be heard, 
except the measured tread of their own footsteps, half 
drowned in the howling of the tempest. Still they 
could not move so stealthily as altogether to elude 
notice, as they defiled through the streets of this pop- 
ulous city. The tidings were quickly conveyed to the 
enemy's quarters, where in an instant all was bustle 
and confusion. The trumpets sounded to arms. The 
dragoons sprang to their steeds, the artillery-men to 
their guns. Narvaez hastily buckled on his armor, 
called his men around him, and summoned those in 
the neighboring teocallis to join him in the area. He 
gave his orders with coolness ; for, however wanting in 
prudence, he was not deficient in presence of mind, or 

All this was the work of a few minutes. But in 
those minutes the Spaniards had reached the avenue 
leading to the camp. Cortes ordered his men to keep 
close to the walls of the buildings, that the cannon- 

«4 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 128. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10 
cap. 2, 3. 



shot might pass between the two files. 13 No sooner had 
they presented themselves before the enclosure, than 
the artillery of Narvaez opened a general fire. Fortu- 
nately, the pieces were pointed so high that most of the 
balls passed over their heads, and three men only were 
struck down. They did not give the enemy time to 
reload. Cortes shouting the watch-word of the night, 
" Espiritu Santo! Espiritu Santo ! Upon them!" in 
a moment Olid and his division rushed on the artil- 
lery-men, whom they pierced or knocked down with 
their pikes, and got possession of their guns. Another 
division engaged the cavalry, and made a diversion in 
favor of Sandoval, who with his gallant little band 
sprang up the great stairway of the temple. They 
were received with a shower of missiles, — arrows and 
musket-balls, which, in the hurried aim, and the dark- 
ness of the night, did little mischief. The next minute 
the assailants were on the platform, engaged hand to 
hand with their foes. Narvaez fought bravely in the 
midst, encouraging his followers. His standard-bearer 
fell by his side, run through the body. He himself 
received several wounds ; for his short sword was no 
match for the long pikes of the assailants. At length 
he received a blow from a spear, which struck out his 
left eye. "Santa Maria!" exclaimed the unhappy 
man, " I am slain !" The cry was instantly taken up 
by the followers of Cortes, who shouted " Victory !" 

»S " Ya que se acercaban al Aposento de Narvaez, Cortes, que 
andaba reconociendo, i ordenando a todas partes, dixo a la Tropa de 
Sandoval : Senores, arrimaos a las dos aceras de la Calle, para que 
las balas del Artilleria pasen por medio, sin hacer dafio." Herrera, 
Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 3. 



Disabled, and half mad with agony from his wound, 
Narvaez was withdrawn by his men into the sanctuary. 
The assailants endeavored to force an entrance, but it 
was stoutly defended. At length a soldier, getting 
possession of a torch or firebrand, flung it on the 
thatched roof, and in a few moments the combustible 
materials of which it was composed were in a blaze. 
Those within were driven out by the suffocating heat 
and smoke. A soldier named Farfan grappled with 
the wounded commander, and easily brought him to 
the ground ; when he was speedily dragged down the 
steps, and secured with fetters. His followers, seeing 
the fate of their chief, made no further resistance. 16 

During this time, Cortes and the troops of Olid had 
been engaged with the cavalry, and had discomfited 
them, after some ineffectual attempts on the part of the 
latter to break through the dense array of pikes, by 
which several of their number were unhorsed and some 
of them slain. The general then prepared to assault 
the other teocallis, first summoning the garrisons to 
surrender. As they refused, he brought up the heavy 
guns to bear on them, thus turning the artillery against 
its own masters. He accompanied this menacing move- 
ment with offers of the most liberal import ; an amnesty 
for the past, and a full participation in all the advan- 
tages of the Conquest. One of the garrisons was under 
the command of Salvatierra, the same officer who talked 
of cutting off the ears of Cortes. From the moment 
he had learned the fate of his own general, the hero 
was seized with a violent fit of illness which disabled 

lS Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS. — Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 



him from further action. The garrison waited only 
for one discharge of the ordnance, when they accepted 
the terms of capitulation. Cortes, it is said, received, 
on this occasion, support from an unexpected auxil- 
iary. The air was filled with the cocuyos, — a species 
of large beetle which emits an intense phosphoric light 
from its body, strong enough to enable one to read by 
it. These wandering fires, seen in the darkness of the 
night, were converted, by the excited imaginations of 
the besieged, into an army with matchlocks ! Such is 
the report of an eye-witness. 17 But the facility with 
which the enemy surrendered may quite as probably 
be referred to the cowardice of the commander, and 
the disaffection of the soldiers, not unwilling to come 
under the banners of Cortes. 

The body of cavalry, posted, it will be remembered, 
by Narvaez on one of the roads to Cempoalla, to in- 
tercept his rival, having learned what had been pass- 
ing, were not long in tendering their submission. Each 
of the soldiers in the conquered army was required, in 
token of his obedience, to deposit his arms in the 
hands of the alguacils, and to take the oaths to Cortes 
as Chief Justice and Captain-General of the colony. 

The number of the slain is variously reported. It 
seems probable that not more than twelve perished on 
the side of the vanquished, and of the victors half that 
number. The small amount may be explained by the 
short duration of the action, and the random aim of 

«7 " Como hazia tan escuro auia muchos cocayos (ansi los llaman 
en Cuba) que relumbrauan de noche, e los de Narvaez creyeron que 
era muchas de las escopetas." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 122. 


the missiles in the darkness. The number of the 
wounded was much more considerable. 18 

The field was now completely won. A few brief 
hours had sufficed to change the condition of Cortes 
from that of a wandering outlaw at the head of a hand- 
ful of needy adventurers, a rebel with a price upon his 
head, to that of an independent chief, with a force at 
his disposal strong enough not only to secure his pres- 
ent conquests, but to open a career for still loftier am- 
bition. While the air rung with the acclamations of 
the soldiery, the victorious general, assuming a deport- 
ment corresponding with his change of fortune, took 
his seat in a chair of state, and, with a rich, embroidered 
mantle thrown over his shoulders, received, one by one, 
the officers and soldiers, as they came to tender their 
congratulations. The privates were graciously per- 
mitted to kiss his hand. The officers he noticed with 
words of compliment or courtesy ; and when Duero, 
Bermudez, the treasurer, and some others of the van- 
quished party, his old friends, presented themselves, he 
cordially embraced them.' 9 

18 Narvaez, or rather his attorney, swells the amount of slain on his 
own side much higher. But it was his cue to magnify the mischief 
sustained by his employer. The collation of this account with those 
of Cortes and his followers affords the best means of approximation 
to the truth. " E alii le mattaron quince hombres q e murieron de las 
feridas q e les dieron e les quemaron seis hombres del dho Incendio q e 
despues parecieron las cabezas de ellos quemadas, e pusieron a saco- 
mano todo quantto ttenian los que benian con el dho mi partte como 
si fueran Moros y al dho mi partte robaron e saquearon todos sus 
vienes, oro, e Platta e Joyas." Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de 
Narvaez, MS. 

x 9 " Entre ellos venia Andres de Duero, y Agustin Bermudez, y 
muchos amigos de nuestro Capita., y assi como venia, ivan a besar las 
Vol. II. 22 



Narvaez, Salvatierra, and two or three of the other 
hostile leaders were led before him in chains. It was a 
moment of deep humiliation for the former commander, 
in which the anguish of the body, however keen, must 
have been forgotten in that of the spirit. " You have 
great reason, Senor Cortes," said the discomfited war- 
rior, "to thank Fortune for having given you the day 
so easily, and put me in your power." " I have much 
to be thankful for," replied the general ; " but for my 
victory over you, I esteem it as one of the least of my 
achievements since my coming into the country!" 20 
He then ordered the wounds of the prisoners to be 
cared for, and sent them under a strong guard to Vera 

Notwithstanding the proud humility of his reply, 
Cortes could scarcely have failed to regard his victory 
over Narvaez as one of the most brilliant achievements 
in his career. With a few scores of followers, badly 
clothed, worse fed, wasted by forced marches, under 
every personal disadvantage, deficient in weapons and 

manos & Cortes, q estaua sentado en vna silla de caderas, con vna 
ropa larga de color como narajada, co sus armas debaxo, acopafiado 
de nosotros. Pues ver la gracia con que les hablaua, y abracaua, y 
las palabras de tatos cumplimietos que les dezia, era cosa de ver que 
alegre estaua : y tenia mucha razon de verse en aquel piito tan senor, 
y pujate : y assi como le besaua la mano, se fuero cada vno d su 
posada." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 122. 

30 Ibid., loc. cit. — " Dixose que como Narvaez vido a Cortes estando 
asi preso le dixo : Senor Cortes, tened en mucho la ventura que habeis 
tenido, e lo mucho que habeis hecho en tener mi persona, 6 en tomar 
mi persona. £ que Cortes le respondio, e dixo: Lo menos que yo 
he hecho en esta tierra donde estais, es haberos prendido : e luego le 
hizo poner & buen recaudo e le tubo mucho tiempo preso." Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 



military stores, he had attacked in their own quarters, 
routed, and captured the entire force of the enemy, 
thrice his superior in numbers, well provided with cav- 
alry and artillery, admirably equipped, and complete 
in all the munitions of war ! The amount of troops 
engaged on either side was, indeed, inconsiderable. 
But the proportions are not affected by this ; and the 
relative strength of the parties made a result so decisive 
one of the most- remarkable events in the annals of 

It is true there were some contingencies on which 
the fortunes of the day depended, that could not be 
said to be entirely within his control. Something 
was the work of chance. If Velasquez de Leon, for 
example, had proved false, the expedition must have 
failed. 21 If the weather, on the night of the attack, 
had been fair, the enemy would have had certain no- 
tice of his approach, and been prepared for it. But 

21 Oviedo says that military men discussed whether Velasquez de 
Leon should have obeyed the commands of Cortes rather than those 
of his kinsman, the governor of Cuba. They decided in favor of the 
former, on the ground of his holding his commission immediately from 
him. " Visto he platicar sobre esto a caballeros e personas militares 
sobre si este Juan Velasquez de Leon hizo lo que debia, en acudir 6 
no a Diego Velasquez, 6 al Panfilo en su nombre ; E combienen los 
veteranos milites, e a mi parecer determinan bien la question, en que 
si Juan Velasquez tubo conducta de capitan para que con aquella 
Gente que el le dio 6 toviese en aquella tierra como capitan particular 
le acudiese a el 6 a quien le mandase. Juan Velasquez falto a lo que 
era obligado en no pasar i. Panfilo de Narvaez siendo requerido de 
Diego Velasquez, mas si le hizo capitan Hernando Cortes, e le dio el 
la Gente, a el havia de acudir, como acudio, excepto si viera carta, a 
mandamiento expreso del Rey en contrario." Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. 12. 


these are the chances that enter more or less into every 
enterprise. He is the skilful general who knows how 
to turn them to account ; to win the smiles of Fortune, 
and make even the elements fight on his side. 

If Velasquez de Leon was, as it proved, the very 
officer whom the general should have trusted with the 
command, it was his sagacity which originally discerned 
this and selected him for it. It was his address that 
converted this dangerous foe into a friend, and one so 
fast that in the hour of need he chose rather to attach 
himself to his desperate fortunes than to those of the 
governor of Cuba, powerful as the latter was, and his 
near kinsman. It was the same address which gained 
Cortes such an ascendency over his soldiers and knit 
them to him so closely that in the darkest moment not 
a man offered to desert him. 22 If the success of the 
assault may be ascribed mainly to the dark and stormy 
weather which covered it, it was owing to him that he 
was in a condition to avail himself of this. The short- 
est possible time intervened between the conception of 
his plan and its execution. In a very few days he 
descended by extraordinary marches from the capital to 
the sea-coast. He came like a torrent from the moun- 
tains, pouring on the enemy's camp, and sweeping 
everything away, before a barrier could be raised to 

22 This ascendency the thoughtful Oviedo refers to his dazzling and 
liberal manners, so strongly contrasted with those of the governor of 
Cuba. " En lo demas valerosa persona ha seido, e para mucho ; y este 
deseo de mandar juntamente con que fue mui bien partido e gratificador 
delosque le vinieron, fue mucha causa juntamente con ser mal quisto 
Diego Velasquez, para que Cortes se saliese con lo que emprendio, k. 
se quedase en el oficio, e governacion." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 12. 


2 57 

arrest it. This celerity of movement, the result of a 
clear head and determined will, has entered into the 
strategy of the greatest captains, and forms a promi- 
nent feature in their most brilliant military exploits. 
It was undoubtedly in the present instance a great 
cause of success. 

But it would be taking a limited view of the subject 
to consider the battle which decided the fate of Nar- 
vaez as wholly fought at Cempoalla. It was begun in 
Mexico. With that singular power which he exercised 
over all who came near him, Cortes converted the very 
emissaries of Narvaez into his own friends and agents. 
The reports of Guevara and his companions, the in- 
trigues of Father Olmedo, and the general's gold, were 
all busily at work to shake the loyalty of the soldiers, 
and the battle was half won before a blow had been 
struck. It was fought quite as much with gold as with 
steel. Cortes understood this so well that he made it 
his great object to seize the person of Narvaez. In such 
an event, he had full confidence that indifference to 
their own cause and partiality to himself would speedily 
bring the rest of the army under his banner. He was 
not deceived. Narvaez said truly enough, therefore, 
some years after this event, that "he had been beaten 
by his own troops, not by those of his rival ; that his 
followers had been bribed to betray him. ' ' 23 This 

2 3 It was in a conversation with Oviedo himself, at Toledo, in 1525, 
in which Narvaez descanted with much bitterness, as was natural, on 
his rival's conduct. The gossip, which has never appeared in print, 
may have some interest for the Spanish reader. " Que el ano de 1525, 
estando Cesar en la cibdad de Toledo, vi alii al dicho Narvaez, e pub- 
licamente decia, que Cortes era vn traidor: £ que dan dole S. M. 
licencia se lo haria conocer de su persona & la suya, e que era homhre 


affords the only explanation of their brief and inef- 
fectual resistance. 

sin verdad, e otras muchas e feas palabras llamdndole alevoso e tirano, 
e ingrato a su Senor, e a quien le havia embiado a la Nueva Espafia, 
que era el Adelantado Diego Velasquez a su propia costa, e se le 
havia alzado con la tierra, e con la Gente e Hacienda, e otras muchas 
cosas que mal sonaban. Y en la manera de su prision la contaba mui 
al reves de lo que esta dicho. Lo que yo noto de esto es, que con 
todo lo que oi a Narvaez, (como yo se lo dixe) no puedo hallarle 
desculpa para su descuido, porque ninguna necesidad tenia de andar 
con Cortes en platicas, sino estar en vela mejor que la que hizo. E a 
esto decia el que le havian vendido aquellos de quien se fiaba, que 
Cortes le havia sobornado." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
cap. 12. 




The tempest, that had raged so wildly during the 
night, passed away with the morning, which rose bright 
and unclouded on the field of battle. As the light 
advanced, it revealed more strikingly the disparity of 
the two forces so lately opposed to each other. Those 
of Narvaez could not conceal their chagrin ; and mur- 
murs of displeasure became audible, as they contrasted 
their own superior numbers and perfect appointments 
with the way-worn visages and rude attire of their 
handful of enemies ! It was with some satisfaction, 
therefore, that the general beheld his dusky allies from 
Chinantla, two thousand in number, arrive upon the 
field. They were a fine, athletic set of men ; and, as 
they advanced in a sort of promiscuous order, so to 
speak, with their gay banners of feather-work, and 
their long lances tipped with itztli and copper glisten- 
ing in the morning sun, they had something of an air 
of military discipline. They came too late for the 
action, indeed, but Cortes was not sorry to exhibit to 
his new followers the extent of his resources in the 
country. As he had now no occasion for his Indian 



allies, after a courteous reception and a liberal recom- 
pense he dismissed them to their homes. 1 

He then used his utmost endeavors to allay the dis- 
content of the troops. He addressed them in his most 
soft and insinuating tones, and was by no means frugal 
of his promises. 2 He suited the action to the word. 
There were few of them but had lost their accoutre- 
ments or their baggage, or horses taken and appro- 
priated by the victors. This last article was in great 
request among the latter, and many a soldier, weary 
with the long marches hitherto made on foot, had 
provided himself, as he imagined, with a much more 
comfortable as well as creditable conveyance for the 
rest of the campaign. The general now commanded 
everything to be restored. 3 " They were embarked in 
the same cause," he said, "and should share with one 
another equally." He went still further, and distrib- 
uted among the soldiers of Narvaez a quantity of gold 
and other precious commodities gathered from the 
neighboring tribes or found in his rival's quarters. 4 

1 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 6. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

2 Diaz, who had often listened to it, thus notices his eloquence : 
" Comenzo vn parlamento por tan lindo estilo, y pldtica, tabie dichas 
cierto otras palabras mas sabrosas, y llenas de ofertas, q yo aqui no 
sabre escriuir." Ibid., cap. 122. 

3 Captain Diaz had secured for his share of the spoil of the Philis- 
tines, as he tells us, a very good horse with all his accoutrements, a 
brace of swords, three daggers, and a buckler, — a very beautiful outfit 
for the campaign. The general's orders were, naturally enough, not 
at all to his taste. Ibid., cap. 124. 

4 Narvaez alleges that Cortes plundered him of property to the value 
of 100,000 castellanos of gold ! (Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de 


These proceedings, however politic in reference to 
his new followers, gave great disgust to his old. " Our 
commander," they cried, "has forsaken his friends for 
his foes. We stood by him in his hour of distress, and 
are rewarded with blows and wounds, while the spoil 
goes to our enemies !" The indignant soldiery com- 
missioned the priest Olmedo and Alonso de Avila to 
lay their complaints before Cortes. The ambassadors 
stated them without reserve, comparing their com- 
mander's conduct to the ungrateful proceeding of Alex- 
ander, who, when he gained a victory, usually gave 
away more to his enemies than to the troops who en- 
abled him to beat them. Cortes was greatly perplexed. 
Victorious or defeated, his path seemed equally beset 
with difficulties. 

He endeavored to soothe their irritation by pleading 
the necessity of the case. "Our new comrades," he 
said, "are formidable from their numbers, so much so 
that we are even now much more in their power than 
they are in ours. Our only security is to make them 
not merely confederates, but friends. On any cause 
of disgust, we shall have the whole battle to fight over 
again, and, if they are united, under a much greater 
disadvantage than before. I have considered your 
interests," he added, "as much as my own. All that 
I have is yours. But why should there be any ground 
for discontent, when the whole country, with its riches, 
is before us ? And our augmented strength must 
henceforth secure the undisturbed control of it." 

But Cortes did not rely wholly on argument for the 

Narvaez, MS.) If so, the pillage of the leader may have supplied the 
means of liberality to the privates. 


restoration of tranquillity. He knew this to be incom- 
patible with inaction, and he made arrangements to 
divide his forces at once and to employ them on distant 
services. He selected a detachment of two hundred 
men, under Diego de Ordaz, whom he ordered to form 
the settlement before meditated on the Coatzacualco. 
A like number was sent with Velasquez de Leon, to 
secure the province of Panuco, some three degrees to 
the north, on the Mexican Gulf. Twenty in each 
detachment were drafted from his own veterans. 

Two hundred men he despatched to Vera Cruz, 
with orders to have the rigging, iron, and everything 
portable on board of the fleet of Narvaez, brought 
on shore, and the vessels completely dismantled. He 
appointed a person named Cavallero superintendent of 
the marine, with instructions that if any ships hereafter 
should enter the port they should be dismantled in like 
manner, and their officers imprisoned on shore. 3 

But, while he was thus occupied with new schemes 
of discovery and conquest, he received such astounding 
intelligence from Mexico as compelled him to concen- 
trate all his faculties and his forces on that one point. 
The city was in a state of insurrection. No sooner had 
the struggle with his rival been decided, than Cortes 

S Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS. — Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 124. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 47. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 130. — Camargo, 
Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — The visit of Narvaez left melancholy traces 
among the natives, that made it long remembered. A negro in his 
suite brought with him the smallpox. The disease spread rapidly in 
that quarter of the country, and great numbers of the Indian popula- 
tion soon fell victims to it. Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. io, 
cap. 6. 


despatched a courier with the tidings to the capital. In 
less than a fortnight the messenger returned with a 
letter from Alvarado, conveying the alarming inform- 
ation that the Mexicans were in arms and had vigor- 
ously assaulted the Spaniards in their own quarters. 
The enemy, he added, had burned the brigantines, by 
which Cortes had secured the means of retreat in case 
of the destruction of the bridges. They had attempted 
to force the defences, and had succeeded in partially 
undermining them, and they had overwhelmed the 
garrison with a tempest of missiles, which had killed 
several and wounded a great number. The letter con- 
cluded with beseeching the commander to hasten to 
the relief of his men, if he would save them or keep 
his hold on the capital. 

These tidings were a heavy blow to the general, — the 
heavier, it seemed, coming as they did in the hour of 
triumph, when he had thought to have all his enemies 
at his feet. There was no room for hesitation. To 
lose his footing in the capital, the noblest city in the 
Western World, would be to lose the country itself, 
which looked up to it as its head. 6 He opened the 
matter fully to his soldiers, calling on all who would 
save their countrymen to follow him. All declared 
their readiness to go ; showing an alacrity, says Diaz, 
which some would have been slow to manifest had they 
foreseen the future. 

Cortes now made preparations for instant departure. 

6 " Se perdia la mejor, y mas Noble Ciudad de todo lo nuevamente 
descubierto del Mundo ; y ella perdida, se perdia todo lo que estaba 
ganado, por ser la Cabeza de todo, y i. quien todos obedecian." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 131. 


He countermanded the orders previously given to Ve- 
lasquez and Ordaz, and directed them to join him with 
their forces at Tlascala. He called the troops from 
Vera Cruz, leaving only a hundred men in garrison 
there, under command of one Rodrigo Rangre ; for he 
could not spare the services of Sandoval at this crisis. 
He left his sick and wounded at Cempoalla, under 
charge of a small detachment, directing that they 
should follow as soon as they were in marching order. 
Having completed these arrangements, he set out from 
Cempoalla, well supplied with provisions by its hospi- 
table cacique, who attended him some leagues on his 
way. The Totonac chief seems to have had an amiable 
facility of accommodating himself to the powers that 
were in the ascendant. 

Nothing worthy of notice occurred during the first 
part of the march. The troops everywhere met with 
a friendly reception from the peasantry, who readily 
supplied their wants. For some time before reaching 
Tlascala, the route lay through a country thinly settled ; 
and the army experienced considerable suffering from 
want of food, and still more from that of water. Their 
distress increased to an alarming degree, as, in the hurry 
of their forced march, they travelled with the meridian 
sun beating fiercely on their heads. Several faltered 
by the way, and, throwing themselves down by the road- 
side, seemed incapable of further effort, and almost 
indifferent to life. 

In this extremity, Cortes sent forward a small detach- 
ment of horse to procure provisions in Tlascala, and 
speedily followed in person. On arriving, he found 
abundant supplies already prepared by the hospitable 


natives. They were sent back to the troops ; the 
stragglers were collected one by one ; refreshments 
were administered ; and the army, restored in strength 
and spirits, entered the republican capital. 

Here they gathered little additional news respecting 
the events in Mexico, which a popular rumor attributed 
to the secret encouragement and machinations of Mon- 
tezuma. Cortes was commodiously lodged in the quar 
ters of Maxixca, one of the four chiefs of the republic. 
They readily furnished him with two thousand troops. 
There was no want of heartiness, when the war was 
with their ancient enemy the Aztec. 7 

The Spanish commander, on reviewing his forces 
after the junction with his two captains, found that they 
amounted to about a thousand foot, and one hundred 
horse, besides the Tlascalan levies. 8 In the infantry 
were nearly a hundred arquebusiers, with as many 
crossbowmen ; and the part of the army brought over 
by Narvaez was admirably equipped. It was inferior, 
however, to his own veterans in what is better than 
any outward appointments, — military training, and 
familiarity with the peculiar service in which they were 

7 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 131. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 14. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 124, 125. — Peter Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5. — Ca- 
margo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 

8 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 103. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 
10, cap. 7. — Bernal Diaz raises the amount to 1300 foot and 96 horse. 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 125.) Cortes diminishes it to less than 
half that number. (Rel. Seg., ubi supra.) The estimate cited in the 
text from the two preceding authorities corresponds nearly enough 
with that already given from official documents of the forces of Cortes 
and Narvaez before the junction. 

Vol. II. — m ix 


Leaving these friendly quarters, the Spaniards took 
a more northerly route, as more direct than that by 
which they had before penetrated into the Valley. It 
was the road to Tezcuco. It still compelled them to 
climb the same bold range of the Cordilleras, which 
attains its greatest elevation in the two mighty volcans 
at whose base they had before travelled. The sides of 
the sierra were clothed with dark forests of pine, 
cypress, and cedar, 9 through which glimpses now and 
then opened into fathomless dells and valleys, whose 
depths, far down in the sultry climate of the tropics, 
were lost in a glowing wilderness of vegetation. From 
the crest of the mountain range the eye travelled over 
the broad expanse of country, which they had lately 
crossed, far away to the green plains of Cholula. To- 
wards the west, they looked down on the Mexican 
Valley, from a point of view wholly different from that 
which they had before occupied, but still offering the 
same beautiful spectacle, with its lakes trembling in the 
light, its gay cities and villas floating on their bosom, 
its burnished teocallis touched with fire, its cultivated 
slopes and dark hills of porphyry stretching away in 
dim perspective to the verge of the horizon. At their 
feet lay the city of Tezcuco, which, modestly retiring 
behind her deep groves of cypress, formed a contrast 
to her more ambitious rival on the other side of the 

9 " Las sierras altas de Tetzcuco a que le mostrasen desde la mas 
alta cumbre de aquellas montanas y sierras de Tetzcuco, que son las 
sierras de Tlallocan altisimas y humbrosas, en las cuales he estado y 
visto, y puedo decir que son bastante para descubrir el un emisferio y 
otro, porque son los mayores puertos y mas altos de esta Nueva 
Espafia, de arboles y montes de grandi'sima altura, de cedras, cipreses 
y pinares." Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 


lake, who seemed to glory in the unveiled splendors of 
her charms, as Mistress of the Valley. 

As they descended into the populous plains, their 
reception by the natives was very different from that 
which they had experienced on the preceding visit. 
There were no groups of curious peasantry to be seen 
gazing at them as they passed, and offering their simple 
hospitality. The supplies they asked were not refused, 
but granted with an ungracious air, that showed the 
blessing of the giver did not accompany them. This 
air of reserve became still more marked as the army 
entered the suburbs of the ancient capital of the Acol- 
huans. No one came forth to greet them, and the pop- 
ulation seemed to have dwindled away, — so many of 
them were withdrawn to the neighboring scene of hos- 
tilities at Mexico. 10 Their cold reception was a sensible 
mortification to the veterans of Cortes, who, judging 
from the past, had boasted to their new comrades of 
the sensation their presence would excite among the 
natives. The cacique of the place, who, as it may be 
remembered, had been created through the influence 
of Cortes, was himself absent. The general drew an 
ill omen from all these circumstances, which even raised 
an uncomfortable apprehension in his mind respecting 
the fate of the garrison in Mexico." 

10 The historian partly explains the reason : " En la misma Ciudad 
de Tezcuco habia algunos apasionados de los deudos y amigos de los 
que mat&ron Pedro de Alvarado y sus companeros en Mexico." 
Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. 

" " En todo el camino nunca me salio & recibir ninguna Persona 
de el dicho Muteczuma, como antes lo solian facer; y toda la Tierra 
estaba alborotada, y casi despoblada : de que concebi mala sospecha, 
creyendo que los Espanoles que en la dicha Ciudad habian quedado, 
eran muertos." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 132. 


But his doubts were soon dispelled by the arrival of 
a messenger in a canoe from that city, whence he had 
escaped through the remissness of the enemy, or, per- 
haps, with their connivance. He brought despatches 
from Alvarado, informing his commander that the 
Mexicans had for the last fortnight desisted from active 
hostilities and converted their operations into a block- 
ade. The garrison had suffered greatly, but Alvarado 
expressed his conviction that the siege would be raised, 
and tranquillity restored, on the approach of his coun- 
trymen. Montezuma sent a messenger, also, to the 
same effect. At the same time, he exculpated himself 
from any part in the late hostilities, which he said 
had been conducted not only without his privity, but 
contrary to his inclination and efforts. 

The Spanish general, having halted long enough to 
refresh his wearied troops, took up his march along the 
southern margin of the lake, which led him over the 
same causeway by which he had before entered the 
capital. It was the day consecrated to St. John the 
Baptist, the 24th of June, 1520. But how different 
was the scene from that presented on his former en- 
trance ! ,2 No crowds now lined the roads, no boats 
swarmed on the lake, filled with admiring spectators. 
A single pirogue might now and then be seen in the 
distance, like a spy stealthily watching their move- 
ments, and darting away the moment it had attracted 
notice. A deathlike stillness brooded over the scene, 

12 " Y como asomo & la vista de la Ciudad de Mexico, pareciole que 
estaba toda yerma, y que no parecia persona por todos los caminos, 
ni casas, ni plazas, ni nadie le salio i recibir, ni de los suyos, ni de los 
enemigos ; y fue esto serial de indignacion y enemistad por lo que 
habiapasado." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 19. 


— a stillness that spoke louder to the heart than the 
acclamations of multitudes. 

Cortes rode on moodily at the head of his battalions, 
finding abundant food for meditation, doubtless, in 
this change of circumstances. As if to dispel these 
gloomy reflections, he ordered his trumpets to sound, 
and their clear, shrill notes, borne across the waters, 
told the inhabitants of the beleaguered fortress that 
their friends were at hand. They were answered by a 
joyous peal of artillery, which seemed to give a moment- 
ary exhilaration to the troops, as they quickened their 
pace, traversed the great drawbridges, and once more 
found themselves within the walls of the imperial city. 

The appearance of things here was not such as to 
allay their apprehensions. In some places they beheld 
the smaller bridges removed, intimating too plainly, 
now that their brigantines were destroyed, how easy it 
would be to cut off their retreat. 13 The town seemed 
even more deserted than Tezcuco. Its once busy and 
crowded population had mysteriously vanished. And, 
as the Spaniards defiled through the empty streets, 
the tramp of their horses' feet upon the pavement was 
answered by dull and melancholy echoes that fell heavily 
on their hearts. With saddened feelings they reached 
the great gates of the palace of Axayacatl. The gates 
were thrown open, and Cortes and his veterans, rush- 
ing in, were cordially embraced by their companions 
in arms, while both parties soon forgot the present in 
the interesting recapitulation of the past. 14 

'3 " Pontes ligneos qui tractim lapideos intersecant, sublatos, ac vias 
aggeribus munitas reperit." P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5. 
J 4 Probanza a pedimento de Juan de Lexalde, MS. — Rel. Seg. de 



The first inquiries of the general were respecting the 
origin of the tumult. The accounts were various. Some 
imputed it to the desire of the Mexicans to release their 
sovereign from confinement ; others to the design of 
cutting off the garrison while crippled by the absence 
of Cortes and their countrymen. All agreed, however, 
in tracing the immediate cause to the violence of 
Alvarado. It was common for the Aztecs to celebrate 
an annual festival in May, in honor of their patron 
war-god. It was called the "incensing of Huitzilo- 
pochtli," and was commemorated by sacrifice, religious 
songs, and dances, in which most of the nobles en- 
gaged, for it was one of the great festivals which dis- 
played the pomp of the Aztec ritual. As it was held 
in the court of the teocalli, in the immediate neighbor- 
hood of the Spanish quarters, and as a part of the 
temple itself was reserved for a Christian chapel, the 
caciques asked permission of Alvarado to perform their 
rites there. They requested also, it is said, to be 
allowed the presence of Montezuma. This latter peti- 
tion Alvarado declined, in obedience to the injunctions 
of Cortes ; but acquiesced in the former, on condition 
that the Aztecs should celebrate no human sacrifices 
and should come without weapons. 

They assembled accordingly on the day appointed, 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 133. — " Esto causo gran admiracion en todos 
los que venian, pero no dej&ron de marchar, hasta entrar donde esta- 
ban los Espanoles acorralados. Venian todos muy casados y muy 
fatigados y con mucho deseo de llegar d. donde estaban sus hermanos ; 
los de dentrc cuando los vieron, recibieron singular consolacion y 
esfuerzo y recibieronlos con la artilleria que tenian, saludandolos, y 
ddndolos el parabien de su venida." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva- 
Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22. 


to the number of six hundred, at the smallest com- 
putation. ts They were dressed in their most magnifi- 
cent gala costumes, with their graceful mantles of 
feather-work sprinkled with precious stones, and their 
necks, arms, and legs ornamented with collars and 
bracelets of gold. They had that love of gaudy splen- 
dor which belongs to semi-civilized nations, and on 
these occasions displayed all the pomp and profusion 
of their barbaric wardrobes. 

Alvarado and his soldiers attended as spectators, 
some of them taking their station at the gates as if by 
chance, and others mingling in the crowd. They were 
all armed, — a circumstance which, as it was usual, ex- 
cited no attention. The Aztecs were soon engrossed 
by the exciting movement of the dance, accompanied 
by their religious chant and wild, discordant minstrelsy. 
While thus occupied, Alvarado and his men, at a con- 
certed signal, rushed with drawn swords on their vic- 
tims. Unprotected by armor or weapons of any kind, 
they were hewn down without resistance by their 
assailants, who in their bloody work, says a contem- 
porary, showed no touch of pity or compunction. 16 
Some fled to the gates, but were caught on the long 

»5 " £ asi los Indios, todos Sefiores, mas de 600 desnudos e con 
muchas joyas de oro e hermosos penachos, e muchas piedras preci- 
osas, e como mas aderezados e gentiles hombres se pudieron e supie- 
ron aderezar, e sin arma alguna defensiva ni ofensiva bailaban e can- 
taban e hacian su areito e fiesta segun su costumbre." (Oviedo, Hist, 
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 54.) Some writers carry the number as 
high as eight hundred or even one thousand. Las Casas, with a more 
modest exaggeration than usual, swells it only to two thousand. Bre- 
vissima Relatione, p. 48. 

,6 " Sin duelo ni piedad Christiana los acuchillo, i mato." Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 104. 


pikes of the soldiers. Others, who attempted to scale 
the coatepantli, or Wall of Serpents, as it was called, 
which surrounded the area, shared the like fate, or 
were cut to pieces, or shot by the ruthless soldiery. 
The pavement, says a writer of the age, ran with 
streams of blood, like water in a heavy shower.* 7 Not 
an Aztec, of all that gay company, was left alive ! It 
was repeating the dreadful scene of Cholula, with the 
disgraceful addition that the Spaniards, not content 
with slaughtering their victims, rifled them of the pre- 
cious ornaments on their persons ! On this sad day 
fell the flower of the Aztec nobility. Not a family of 
note but had mourning and desolation brought within 
its walls. 18 And many a doleful ballad, rehearsing the 

»7 " Fue tan grande el derramamiento de Sangre, que corrian arroyos 
de ella por el Patio, como agua cuando mucho llueve." Sahagun, 
Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 20. 

18 [In the process instituted against Alvarado this massacre forms one 
of the most important charges. He is there accused of having killed 
four hundred of the principal nobles and a great number of the com- 
mon people, of whom more than three thousand, it is stated, were 
assembled to celebrate the festival in honor of their war-god. " Ynbio 
al patyo donde todos baylaban y syn cabsa ni razon alguna dieron 
sobrellos y mataron todos los mas de los senores que estavan presos 
con el dicho Motenzuma y mataron cuatro cientos senores e prenci- 
pales que con el estavan e mataron mucho numero de yndios que 
estavan baylando en mas cantydad de tres mill personas." (Procesos 
de Residencia, instruidos contra Pedro de Alvarado y Nuno de Guz- 
man, p. 53.) The public are under great obligations to the licen- 
tiate Don Ignacio Rayon for bringing into light this important docu- 
ment, which for more than three centuries had lain hid in the General 
Archives of Mexico. We have hardly less reason to thank him for 
placing the manuscript in the hands of so competent a scholar as Don 
Jose Fernando Ramirez, to enrich it with the stores of his critical eru- 
dition. The publication of the process did not take place till some 
years after that of my own history of the Conquest of Mexico. But, as 



tragic incidents of the story, and adapted to the plaint- 
ive national airs, continued to be chanted by the 
natives long after the subjugation of the country. 19 

Various explanations have been given of this atro- 
cious deed. But few historians have been content to 
admit that of Alvarado himself. According to this, in- 
telligence had been obtained through his spies — some of 
them Mexicans — of an intended rising of the Indians. 
The celebration of this festival was fixed on as the 
period for its execution, when the caciques would be 
met together and would easily rouse the people to 
support them. Alvarado, advised of all this, had for- 
bidden them to wear arms at their meeting. While 
affecting to comply, they had secreted their weapons 
in the neighboring arsenals, whence they could readily 
withdraw them. But his own blow, by anticipating 
theirs, defeated the design, and, as he confidently 
hoped, would deter the Aztecs from a similar attempt 
in future. 20 

it contains a minute specification of the various charges against Alva- 
rado, and his own defence, it furnishes me with the means of correct- 
ing any errors into which I have fallen in reference to that commander, 
while it corroborates, I may add, the general tenor of the statements I 
have derived from contemporary chroniclers.] 

19 " Y de aqui & que se acabe el mundo, 6 ellos del todo se acaben, 
no dexaran de lamentar, y cantar en sus areytos, y bayles, como en 
romances, que acd. dezimos, aquella calamidad, y perdida de la suces- 
sion de toda su nobleza, de que se preciauan de tantos anos atras." 
Las Casas, Brevissima Relatione, p. 49. 

20 See Alvarado's reply to queries of Cortes, as reported by Diaz 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 125), with some additional particulars in 
Torquemada (Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 66), Solis (Conquista, lib. 4, 
cap. 12), and Herrera (Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 8), who all 
seem content to endorse Alvarado's version of the matter. I find no 
other authority, of any weight, in the same charitable vein. 




Such is the account of the matter given by Alva- 
rado. But, if true, why did he not verify his assertion 
by exposing the arms thus secreted? Why did he 
not vindicate his conduct in the eyes of the Mex- 
icans generally, by publicly avowing the treason 
of the nobles, as was done by Cortes at Cholula? 
The whole looks much like an apology devised 
after the commission of the deed, to cover up its 

Some contemporaries assign a very different motive 
for the massacre, which, according to them, originated 
in the cupidity of the Conquerors, as shown by their 
plundering the bodies of their victims. 21 Bernal Diaz, 
who, though not present, had conversed familiarly with 
those who were, vindicates them from the charge of 
this unworthy motive. According to him, Alvarado 
struck the blow in order to intimidate the Aztecs 
from any insurrectionary movement. 22 But whether he 
had reason to apprehend such, or even affected to 
do so before the massacre, the old chronicler does not 
inform us. 

21 Oviedo mentions a conversation which he had some years after 
this tragedy with a noble Spaniard, Don Thoan Cano, who came over 
in the train of Narvaez and was present at all the subsequent opera- 
tions of the army. He married a daughter of Montezuma, and settled 
in Mexico after the Conquest. Oviedo describes him as a man of 
sense and integrity. In answer to the historian's queries respecting 
the cause of the rising, he said that Alvarado had wantonly perpetrated 
the massacre from pure avarice ; and the Aztecs, enraged at such un- 
provoked and unmerited cruelty, rose, as they well might, to avenge 
it. (Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 54.) See the original dia- 
logue in Appendix, Part 2, No. 11. 

23 " Verdaderamente dio en ellos por metelles temor." Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 125. 



On reflection, it seems scarcely possible that so foul 
a deed, and one involving so much hazard to the Span- 
iards themselves, should have been perpetrated from 
the mere desire of getting possession of the baubles 
worn on the persons of the natives. It is more likely 
this was an after-thought, suggested to the rapacious 
soldiery by the display of the spoil before them. It 
is not improbable that Alvarado may have gathered 
rumors of a conspiracy among the nobles, — rumors, 
perhaps, derived through the Tlascalans, their invete- 
rate foes, and for that reason very little deserving of 
credit. 23 He proposed to defeat it by imitating the 
example of his commander at Cholula. But he omitted 
to imitate his leader in taking precautions against the 
subsequent rising of the populace. And he grievously 

*3 Such, indeed, is the statement of Ixtlilxochitl, derived, as he says, 
from the native Tezcucan annalists. According to them, the Tlasca- 
lans, urged by their hatred of the Aztecs and their thirst for plunder, 
persuaded Alvarado, nothing loth, that the nobles meditated a rising 
on the occasion of these festivities. The testimony is important, and 
I give it in the author's words : " Fue que ciertos Tlascaltecas (segun 
las Historias de Tescuco que son las que Io sigo y la carta que otras 
veces he referido) por embidia lo uno acordandose que en semejante 
fiesta los Mexicanos solian sacrificar gran suma de cautivos de los de 
la Nacion Tlascalteca, y lo otro que era la mejor ocasion que ellos 
podian tener para poder hinchir las manos de despojos y hartar su 
codicia, y vengarse de sus Enemigos (porque hasta entonces no habian 
tenido lugar, ni Cortes se les diera, ni admitiera sus dichos, porque 
siempre hacia las cosas con mucho acuerdo) fueron con esta inven- 
cion al capitan Pedro de Albarado, que estaba en lugar de Cortes, el 
qual no fue menester mucho para darles credito porque tan buenos 
filos, y pensamientos tenia como ellos, y mas viendo que alii en aquella 
fiesta habian acudido todos los Senores y Cabezas del Imperio y que 
muertos no tenian mucho trabajo en sojuzgarles." Hist. Chich., MS., 
cap. 88. 


miscalculated when he confounded the bold and warlike 
Aztec with the effeminate Cholulan. 24 

No sooner was the butchery accomplished, than the 
tidings spread like wildfire through the capital. Men 
could scarcely credit their senses. All they had hith- 
erto suffered, the desecration of their temples, the 
imprisonment of their sovereign, the insults heaped on 
his person, all were forgotten in this one act. 25 Every 

2 4 [Alvarado intimates, in the defence of his conduct which forms 
part of the process, one source of the rumors respecting the rising of 
the Aztecs, by saying that the existence of such a scheme was matter 
of public notoriety among the Tlascalans. He adds that he obtained 
more precise intelligence from two or three Indians, one a Tezcucan, 
another a slave whom he had rescued from the sacrifice to which he 
had been doomed by the Aztecs ; that these latter, under cover of the 
festivities, had planned an insurrection against the Spaniards, in which 
he and his countrymen were all to be exterminated. At the same time 
they determined to tear down the image of the Virgin which had been 
raised in the temple, and in its place to substitute that of their war- 
god, Huitzilopochtli. Montezuma was accused of being privy to this 
conspiracy. Thus instructed, Alvarado, as he asserts, got his men in 
readiness to resist the enemy, who, after a short encounter, was repulsed 
with slaughter, while one Spaniard was slain, and he himself, with 
several others, severely wounded (Proceso, pp. 66, 67). But although 
a long array of witnesses, most of them probably his ancient friends 
and comrades, are introduced to endorse his statement, one who 
reflects on the submissive spirit hitherto shown, not only by Mon- 
tezuma, but his subjects, in their dealings with the Spaniards, and 
contrasts it with the fierce and unscrupulous temper displayed by 
Alvarado, will have little doubt on whose head the guilt of the mas- 
sacre must rest ; and as little seems to have been felt by most of the 
writers of the time who have spoken of the affair.] 

2 5 Martyr well recapitulates these grievances, showing that they 
seemed such in the eyes of the Spaniards themselves, — of those, at 
least, whose judgment was not warped by a share in the transactions. 
" Emori statuerunt malle, quam diutius ferre tales hospites qui regem 
suum sub tutoris vitse specie detineant, civitatem occupent, antiquos 


feeling of long-smothered hostility and rancor now 
burst forth in the cry for vengeance. Every former 
sentiment of superstitious dread was merged in that of 
inextinguishable hatred. It required no effort of the 
priests — though this was not wanting — to fan these 
passions into a blaze. The city rose in arms to a man; 
and on the following dawn, almost before the Spaniards 
could secure themselves in their defences, they were 
assaulted with desperate fury. Some of the assail- 
ants attempted to scale the walls ; others succeeded in 
partially undermining and setting fire to the works. 
Whether they would have succeeded in carrying the 
place by storm is doubtful. But, at the prayers of the 
garrison, Montezuma himself interfered, and, mount- 
ing the battlements, addressed the populace, whose 
fury he endeavored to mitigate by urging considera- 
tions for his own safety. They respected their mon- 
arch so far as to desist from further attempts to storm 
the fortress, but changed their operations into a regular 
blockade. They threw up works around the palace to 
prevent the egress of the Spaniards. They suspended 
the tianguez, or market, to preclude the possibility of 
their enemy's obtaining supplies; and they then quietly 
sat down, with feelings of sullen desperation, waiting 
for the hour when famine should throw their victims 
into their hands. 

The condition of the besieged, meanwhile, was suf- 
ficiently distressing. Their magazines of provisions, 

hostes Tascaltecanos et alios praeterea in contumeliam ante illorum 

oculos ipsorum impensa conseruent ; qui demum simulachra 

deorum confregerint, et ritus veteres ac ceremonias antiquas illis abstu- 
lerint." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5. 

Vol. II. 24 


it is true, were not exhausted ; but they suffered greatly 
from want of water, which, within the enclosure, was 
exceedingly brackish, for the soil was saturated with 
the salt of the surrounding element. In this extremity, 
they discovered, it is said, a spring of fresh water in 
the area. Such springs were known in some other parts 
of the city ; but, discovered first under these circum- 
stances, it was accounted as nothing less than a mira- 
cle. Still they suffered much from their past encounters. 
Seven Spaniards, and many Tlascalans, had fallen, and 
there was scarcely one of either nation who had not 
received several wounds. In this situation, far from 
their own countrymen, without expectation of succor 
from abroad, they seemed to have no alternative before 
them but a lingering death by famine, or one more 
dreadful on the altar of sacrifice. From this gloomy 
state they were relieved by the coming of their com- 
rades. 26 

Cortes calmly listened to the explanation made by 
Alvarado. But, before it was ended, the conviction 
must have forced itself on his mind that he had made 
a wrong selection for this important post. Yet the 
mistake was natural. Alvarado was a cavalier of high 
family, gallant and chivalrous, and his warm personal 
friend. He had talents for action, was possessed of 
firmness and intrepidity, while his frank and dazzling 
manners made the Tonatiuh an especial favorite with 
the Mexicans. But underneath this showy exterior 
the future conqueror of Guatemala concealed a heart 
rash, rapacious, and cruel. He was altogether desti- 

26 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. 13, 47. — Gomara, Cronica cap. 105. 



tute of that moderation which, in the delicate position 
he occupied, was a quality of more worth than all the 

When Alvarado had concluded his answers to the 
several interrogatories of Cortes, the brow of the latter 
darkened, as he said to his lieutenant, " You have 
done badly. You have been false to your trust. Your 
conduct has been that of a madman !" And, turning 
abruptly on his heel, he left him in undisguised dis- 

Yet this was not a time to break with one so popular, 
and, in many respects, so important to him, as this 
captain, much less to inflict on him the punishment he 
merited. The Spaniards were like mariners laboring 
in a heavy tempest, whose bark nothing but the dex- 
terity of the pilot and the hearty co-operation of the 
crew can save from foundering. Dissensions at such a 
moment must be fatal. Cortes, it is true, felt strong 
in his present resources. He now found himself at the 
head of a force which could scarcely amount to less 
than twelve hundred and fifty Spaniards, and eight 
thousand native warriors, principally Tlascalans. 27 But, 
though relying on this to overawe resistance, the very 
augmentation of numbers increased the difficulty of 
subsistence. Discontented with himself, disgusted with 
his officer, and embarrassed by the disastrous conse- 
quences in which Alvarado' s intemperance had in- 

*7 He left in garrison, on his departure from Mexico, 140 Spaniards 
and about 6500 Tlascalans, including a few Cempoallan warriors. 
Supposing five hundred of these — a liberal allowance — to have per- 
ished in battle and otherwise, it would still leave a number which, with 
the reinforcement now brought, would raise the amount to that stated 
in the text. 


volved him, he became irritable, and indulged in a 
petulance by no means common ; for, though a man 
of lively passions by nature, he held them habitually 
under control. 28 

On the day that Cortes arrived, Montezuma had left 
his own quarters to welcome him. But the Spanish 
commander, distrusting, as it would seem, however 
unreasonably, his good faith, received him so coldly 
that the Indian monarch withdrew, displeased and 
dejected, to his apartment. As the Mexican populace 
made no show of submission, and brought no supplies 
to the army, the general's ill humor with the emperor 
continued. When, therefore, Montezuma sent some 
of the nobles to ask an interview with Cortes, the 
latter, turning to his own officers, haughtily exclaimed, 
" What have I to do with this dog of a king who suf- 
fers us to starve before his eyes ?' ' 

His captains, among whom were Olid, De Avila, and 
Velasquez de Leon, endeavored to mitigate his anger, 
reminding him, in respectful terms, that had it not been 
for the emperor the garrison might even now have been 
overwhelmed by the enemy. This remonstrance only 
chafed him the more. " Did not the dog," he asked, 
repeating the opprobrious epithet, "betray us in his 
communications with Narvaez? And does he not now 
suffer his markets to be closed, and leave us to die of 
famine?" Then, turning fiercely to the Mexicans, he 
said, " Go tell your master and his people to open the 

88 " Seeing how all went contrary to his expectations and that we 
still received no supplies, he grew extremely sad, and showed himself 
in his bearing towards the Spaniards fretful and haughty." Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126. 


markets, or we will do it for them, at their cost !" The 
chiefs, who had gathered the import of his previous 
taunt on their sovereign, from his tone and gesture, or 
perhaps from some comprehension of his language, left 
his presence swelling with resentment, and, in com- 
municating his message, took care it should lose none 
of its effect. 29 

Shortly after, Cortes, at the suggestion, it is said, of 
Montezuma, released his brother Cuitlahua, lord of 
Iztapalapan, who, it will be remembered, had been 
seized on suspicion of co-operating with the chief of 
Tezcuco in his meditated revolt. It was thought he 
might be of service in allaying the present tumult and 
bringing the populace to a better state of feeling. But 
he returned no more to the fortress. 30 He was a bold, 
ambitious prince, and die injuries he had received from 
the Spaniards rankled deep in his bosom. He was pre- 
sumptive heir to the crown, which, by the Aztec laws 
of succession, descended much more frequently in a 
collateral than in a direct line. The people welcomed 
him as the representative of their sovereign, and chose 
him to supply the place of Montezuma during his cap- 
tivity. Cuitlahua willingly accepted the post of honor 
and of danger. He was an experienced warrior, and 
exerted himself to reorganize the disorderly levies and 
to arrange a more efficient plan of operations. The 
effect was soon visible. 

=9 The scene is reported by Diaz, who was present. (Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 126.) See, also, the Chronicle of Gomara, the chap- 
lain of Cortes. (Cap. 106.) It is further confirmed by Don Thoan 
Cano, an eye-witness, in his conversation with Oviedo. See Appen- 
dix, Part 2, No. 11. 

3° Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. io, cap. 8. 


Cortes meanwhile had so little doubt of his ability to 
overawe the insurgents, that he wrote to that effect to 
the garrison of Villa Rica by the same despatches in 
which he informed them of his safe arrival in the capi- 
tal. But scarcely had his messenger been gone half 
an hour, when he returned breathless with terror and 
covered with wounds. "The city," he said, "was all 
in arms ! The draw-bridges were raised, and the 
enemy would soon be upon them !" He spoke truth. 
It was not long before a hoarse, sullen sound became 
audible, like that of the roaring of distant waters. It 
grew louder and louder; till, from the parapet sur- 
rounding the enclosure, the great avenues which led to 
it might be seen dark with the masses of warriors, who 
came rolling on in a confused tide towards the fortress. 
At the same time, the terraces and azoteas or flat roofs, 
in the neighborhood, were thronged with combatants 
brandishing their missiles, who seemed to have risen 
up as if by magic ! 3I It was a spectacle to appall the 
stoutest. But the dark storm to which it was the pre- 
lude, and which gathered deeper and deeper round the 
Spaniards during the remainder of their residence in 
the capital, must form the subject of a separate Book. 

3 1 " El qual Mensajero bolvio dende a media hora todo descala- 
brado, y herido, dando voces, que todos los Indios de la Ciudad 
venian de Guerra y que tenian todas las Puentes alzadas ; e junto 
tras el da sobre nosotros tanta multitud de Gente por todas partes 
que ni las callus ni Azoteas se parecian con Gente ; la qual venia con 
los mayores alaridos, y grita mas espantable, que en el Mundo se 
puede pensar." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 134. — Oviedo. 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes was born in 1478. He 
belonged to an ancient family of the Asturias. Every family, indeed, 

OVIEDO. 283 

claims to be ancient in this last retreat of the intrepid Goths. He was 
early introduced at court, and was appointed page to Prince Juan, 
the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella, on whom their hopes, and 
those of the nation, deservedly rested. Oviedo accompanied the 
camp in the latter campaigns of the Moorish war, and was present at 
the memorable siege of Granada. On the untimely death of his royal 
master, in 1496, he passed over to Italy and entered the service of 
King Frederick of Naples. At the death of that prince he returned 
to his own country, and in the beginning of the sixteenth century we 
find him again established in Castile, where he occupied the place of 
keeper of the crown jewels. In 1513 he was named by Ferdinand 
the Catholic veedor, or inspector, of the gold founderies in the Amer- 
ican colonies. Oviedo, accordingly, transported himself to the New 
World, where he soon took a commission under Pedrarias, governor 
of Darien, and shared in the disastrous fortunes of that colony. He 
obtained some valuable privileges from the Crown, built a fortress on 
Tierra Firme and entered into traffic with the natives. In this we may 
presume he was prosperous, since we find him at length established 
with a wife and family at Hispaniola, or Fernandina, as it was then 
called. Although he continued to make his principal residence in the 
New World, he made occasional visits to Spain, and in 1526 pub- 
lished at Madrid his Sumario. It is dedicated to the Emperor Charles 
the Fifth, and contains an account of the West Indies, their geogra- 
phy, climate, the races who inhabited them, together with their animals 
and vegetable productions. The subject was of great interest to the 
inquisitive minds of Europe, and one of which they had previously 
gleaned but scanty information. In 1535, in a subsequent visit to 
Spain, Oviedo gave to the world the first volume of his great work, 
which he had been many years in compiling, — the Historia de las 
Indias Occident ales. In the same year he was appointed by Charles 
the Fifth alcayde of the fortress of Hispaniola. He continued in the 
island the ten following years, actively engaged in the prosecution of 
his historical researches, and then returned for the last time to his native 
land. The veteran scholar was well received at court, and obtained 
the honorable appointment of Chronicler of the Indies. He occupied 
this post until the period of his death, which took place at Valladolid 
in 1557, in the seventy-ninth year of his age, at the very time when 
he was employed in preparing the residue of his history for the press. 
Considering the intimate footing on which Oviedo lived with the 
eminent persons of his time, it is singular that so little is preserved of 

284 OVIEDO. 

his personal history and his character. Nic. Antonio speaks of him 
as a " man of large experience, courteous in his manners, and of great 
probity." His long and active life is a sufficient voucher for his ex- 
perience, and one will hardly doubt his good breeding when we 
know the high society in which he moved. He left a large mass of 
manuscripts, embracing a vast range both of civil and natural history. 
By far the most important is his Historia general de las Indias. It is 
divided into three parts, containing fifty books. The first part, con- 
sisting of nineteen books, is the one already noticed as having been 
published during his lifetime. It gives in a more extended form the 
details of geographical and natural history embodied in his Sumario, 
with a narrative, moreover, of the discoveries and conquests of the 
Islands. A translation of this portion of the work was made by the 
learned Ramusio, with whom Oviedo was in correspondence, and is 
published in the third volume of his inestimable collection. The two 
remaining parts relate to the conquests of Mexico, of Peru, and other 
countries of South America. It is that portion of the work con- 
sulted for these pages. The manuscript was deposited, at his death, 
in the Casa de la Contratacion, at Seville. It afterwards came into the 
possession of the Dominican monastery of Monserrat. In process 
of time, mutilated copies found their way into several private collec- 
tions; when, in 1775, Don Francisco Cerda y Rico, an officer in the 
Indian department, ascertained the place in which the original was 
preserved, and, prompted by his literary zeal, obtained an order from 
the government for its publication. Under his supervision the work 
was put in order for the press, and Oviedo's biographer, Alvarez y 
Baena, assures us that a complete edition of it, prepared with the 
greatest care, would soon be given to the world. (Hijos de Madrid 
(Madrid, 1790), torn. ii. pp. 354-361.) It still remains in manuscript. 
No country has been more fruitful in the field of historical compo- 
sition than Spain. Her ballads are chronicles done into verse. The 
chronicles themselves date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 
Every city, every small town, every great family, and many a petty 
one, has its chronicler. These were often mere monkish chroniclers, 
who in the seclusion of the convent found leisure for literary occupa- 
tion. Or, not unfrequently, they were men who had taken part in the 
affairs they described, more expert with the sword than with the pen. 
The compositions of this latter class have a general character of that 
indifference to fine writing which shows a mind intent on the facts 
with which it is occupied, much more than on forms of expression. 

OVIEDO. 285 

The monkish chroniclers, on the other hand, often make a pedantic 
display of obsolete erudition, which contrasts rather whimsically with 
the homely texture of the narrative. The chronicles of both the one 
and the other class of writers may frequently claim the merit of pic- 
turesque and animated detail, showing that the subject was one of 
living interest, and that the writer's heart was in his subject. 

Many of the characteristic blemishes of which I have been speak- 
ing may be charged on Oviedo. His style is cast in no classic mould. 
His thoughts find themselves a vent in tedious, interminable sentences, 
that may fill the reader with despair ; and the thread of the narrative 
is broken by impertinent episodes that lead to nothing. His scholar- 
ship was said to be somewhat scanty. One will hardly be led to 
doubt it, from the tawdry display of Latin quotations with which he 
garnishes his pages, like a poor gallant who would make the most of 
his little store of finery. He affected to take the elder Pliny as his 
model, as appears from the preface to his Stimario. But his own work 
fell far short of the model of erudition and eloquence which that 
great writer of natural history has bequeathed to us. 

Yet, with his obvious defects, Oviedo showed an enlightened curi- 
osity, and a shrewd spirit of observation, which place him far above 
the ordinary range of chroniclers. He may even be said to display a 
philosophic tone in his reflections, though his philosophy must be re- 
garded as cold and unscrupulous wherever the rights of the aborigines 
are in question. He was indefatigable in amassing materials for his 
narratives, and for this purpose maintained a correspondence with the 
most eminent men of his time who had taken part in the transactions 
which he commemorates. He even condescended to collect informa- 
tion from more humble sources, from popular tradition and the reports 
of the common soldiers. Hence his work often presents a medley of 
inconsistent and contradictory details, which perplex the judgment, 
making it exceedingly difficult, at this distance of time, to disentangle 
the truth. It was perhaps for this reason that Las Casas complimented 
the author by declaring that " his works were a wholesale fabrication, 
as full of lies as of pages!" Yet another explanation of this severe 
judgment may be found in the different characters of the two men. 
Oviedo shared in the worldly feelings common to the Spanish Con- 
querors, and, while he was ever ready to magnify the exploits of his 
countrymen, held lightly the claims and the sufferings of the unfor- 
tunate aborigines. He was incapable of appreciating the generous 
philanthropy of Las Casas, or of rising to his lofty views, which he 


doubtless derided as those of a benevolent, it might be, but visionary, 
fanatic. Las Casas, on the other hand, whose voice had been con- 
stantly uplifted against the abuses of the Conquerors, was filled with 
abhorrence at the sentiments avowed by Oviedo, and it was natural 
that his aversion to the principles should be extended to the person 
who professed them. Probably no two men could have been found 
less competent to form a right estimate of each other. 

Oviedo showed the same activity in gathering materials for natural 
history as he had done for the illustration of civil. He collected the 
different plants of the Islands in his garden, and domesticated many 
of the animals, or kept them in confinement under his eye, where he 
could study their peculiar habits. By this course, if he did not him- 
self rival Pliny and Hernandez in science, he was, at least, enabled 
to furnish the man of science with facts of the highest interest and 

Besides these historical writings, Oviedo left a work in six volumes, 
called by the whimsical title of Qiiincuagenas . It consists of imagi- 
nary dialogues between the most eminent Spaniards of the time, in re- 
spect to their personal history, their families, and genealogy. It is a 
work of inestimable value to the historian of the times of Ferdinand 
and Isabella, and of Charles the Fifth. But it has attracted little 
attention in Spain, where it still remains in manuscript. A complete 
copy of Oviedo's History of the Indies is in the archives of the Royal 
Academy of History in Madrid, and it is understood that this body 
has now an edition prepared for the press. Such parts as are literally 
transcribed from preceding narratives, like the Letters of Cortes, 
which Oviedo transferred without scruple entire and unmutilated into 
his own pages, though enlivened, it is true, by occasional criticism of 
his own, might as well be omitted. But the remainder of the great 
work affords a mass of multifarious information which would make 
an important contribution to the colonial history of Spain. 

An authority of frequent reference in these pages is Diego Munoz 
Camargo. He was a noble Tlascalan mestee, and lived in the latter 
half of the sixteenth century. He was educated in the Christian 
faith, and early instructed in Castilian, in which tongue he composed 
his Historia de Tlascala. In this work he introduces the reader to the 
different members of the great Nalmatlac family who came succes- 
sively up the Mexican plateau. Born and bred among the aborigines 
of the country, when the practices of the pagan age had not wholly 
become obsolete, Camargo was in a position perfectly to comprehend 


the condition of the ancient inhabitants ; and his work supplies much 
curious and authentic information respecting the social and religious 
institutions of the land at the time of the Conquest. His patriotism 
warms as he recounts the old hostilities of his countrymen with the 
Aztecs ; and it is singular to observe how the detestation of the rival 
nations survived their common subjection under the Castilian yoke. 

Camargo embraces in his narrative an account of this great event, 
and of the subsequent settlement of the country. As one of the In- 
dian family, we might expect to see his chronicle reflect the prejudices, 
or, at least, partialities, of the Indian. But the Christian convert 
yielded up his sympathies as freely to the Conquerors as to his own 
countrymen. The desire to magnify the exploits of the latter, and at 
the same time to do full justice to the prowess of the white men, pro- 
duces occasionally a most whimsical contrast in his pages, giving the 
story a strong air of inconsistency. In point of literary execution the 
work has little merit; as great, however, as could be expected from 
a native Indian, indebted for his knowledge of the tongue to such 
imperfect instruction as he could obtain from the missionaries. Yet 
in style of composition it may compare not unfavorably with the 
writings of some of the missionaries themselves. 

The original manuscript was long preserved in the convent of San 
Felipe Neri in Mexico, where Torquemada, as appears from occa- 
sional references, had access to it. It has escaped the attention of 
other historians, but was embraced by Mufioz in his magnificent col- 
lection, and deposited in the archives of the Royal Academy of 
History at Madrid ; from which source the copy in my possession was 
obtained. It bears the title of Pedazo de Historia verdadcra, and 
is without the author's name, and without division into books or 



Vol. II. — n 25 ( 289 ) 








The palace of Axayacatl, in which the Spaniards 
were quartered, was, as the reader may remember, a 
vast, irregular pile of stone buildings, having but one 
floor, except in the centre, where another story was 
added, consisting of a suite of apartments which rose 
like turrets on the main building of the edifice. A 
vast area stretched around, encompassed by a stone 
wall of no great height. This was supported by towers 
or bulwarks at certain intervals, which gave it some 
degree of strength, not, indeed, as compared with 
European fortifications, but sufficient to resist the rude 
battering enginery of the Indians. The parapet had 
been pierced here and there with embrasures for the 
artillery, which consisted of thirteen guns ; and smaller 
apertures were made in other parts for the convenience 




of the arquebusiers. The Spanish forces found accom- 
modations within the great building ; but the numerous 
body of Tlascalan auxiliaries could have had no other 
shelter than what was afforded by barracks or sheds 
hastily constructed for the purpose in the spacious 
court-yard. Most of them, probably, bivouacked under 
the open sky, in a climate milder than that to which 
they were accustomed among the rude hills of their 
native land. Thus crowded into a small and compact 
compass, the whole army could be assembled at a mo- 
ment's notice ; and, as the Spanish commander was 
careful to enforce the strictest discipline and vigilance, 
it was scarcely possible that he could be taken by sur- 
prise. No sooner, therefore, did the trumpet call to 
arms, as the approach of the enemy was announced, 
than every soldier was at his post, the cavalry mounted, 
the artillery-men at their guns, and the archers and 
arquebusiers stationed so as to give the assailants a 
warm reception. 

On they came, with the companies, or irregular 
masses, into which the multitude was divided, rushing 
forward each in its own dense column, with many a gay 
banner displayed, and many a bright gleam of light 
reflected from helmet, arrow, and spear-head, as they 
were tossed about in their disorderly array. As they 
drew near the enclosure, the Aztecs set up a hideous 
yell, or rather that shrill whistle used in fight by the 
nations of Anahuac, which rose far above the sound 
of shell and atabal and their other rude instruments 
of warlike melody. They followed this by a tempest 
of missiles, — stones, darts, and arrows, — which fell 
thick as rain on the besieged, while volleys of the 


same kind descended from the crowded terraces in the 
neighborhood. 1 

The Spaniards waited until the foremost column had 
arrived within the best distance for giving effect to 
their fire, when a general discharge of artillery and 
arquebuses swept the ranks of the assailants and mowed 
them down by hundreds. 2 The Mexicans were familiar 
with the report of these formidable engines as they 
had been harmlessly discharged on some holiday 
festival ; but never till now had they witnessed their 
murderous power. They stood aghast for a moment, 
as with bewildered looks they staggered under the fury 
of the fire ; 3 but, soon rallying, the bold barbarians 
uttered a piercing cry, and rushed forward over the 

1 " Eran tantas las Piedras, que nos echaban con Hondas dentro en 
la Fortaleza, que no parecia sino que el Cielo las llovia ; e las Flechas, 
y Tiraderas eran tantas, que todas las paredes y Patios estaban llenos, 
que casi no podiamos andar con ellas." (Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 134.) No wonder that they should have found some 
difficulty in wading through the arrows, if Herrera's account be cor- 
rect, ih&t/orty cart-loads of them were gathered up and burnt by the 
besieged every day! Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. 

2 " Luego sin tardanza se juntaron los Mexicanos, en gran copia, 
puestos a punto de Guerra, que no parecia, sino que habian salido 
debajo de tierra todos juntos, y comenzaron luego a dar grita y pelear, 
y los Espafioles les comenzaron & responder de dentro con toda la 
artilleria que de nuebo habian traido, y con toda la gente que de 
nuevo habia venido, y los Espafioles hicieron gran destrozo en los 
Indios, con la artilleria, arcabuzes, y ballestas y todo el otro artificio 
de pelear." (Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 
22.) The good father waxes eloquent in his description of the battle- 

3 The enemy presented so easy a mark, says Gomara, that the gun- 
ners loaded and fired with hardly the trouble of pointing their pieces. 
" Tan recio, que los artilleros sin asestar jugaban con los tiros." 
Cronica, cap. 106, 




prostrate bodies of their comrades. A second and 
a third volley checked their career, and threw them 
into disorder, but still they pressed on, letting off 
clouds of arrows; while their comrades on the roofs 
of the houses took more deliberate aim at the com- 
batants in the court-yard. The Mexicans were partic- 
ularly expert in the use of the sling ; 4 and the stones 
which they hurled from their elevated positions on 
the heads of their enemies did even greater execu- 
tion than the arrows. They glanced, indeed, from 
the mail-covered bodies of the cavaliers, and from 
those who were sheltered under the cotton panoply, 
or escaupil. But some of the soldiers, especially the 
veterans of Cortes, and many of their Indian allies, 
had but slight defences, and suffered greatly under 
this stony tempest. 

The Aztecs, meanwhile, had advanced close under 
the walls of the intrenchment, their ranks broken and 
disordered and their limbs mangled by the unintermit- 
ting fire of the Christians. But they still pressed on, 
under the very muzzles of the guns. They endeavored 
to scale the parapet, which, from its moderate height, 
was in itself a work of no great difficulty. But the 
moment they showed their heads above the rampart 
they were shot down by the unerring marksmen within, 
or stretched on the ground by a blow of a Tlascalan 
maquahnitl. Nothing daunted, others soon appeared 
to take the place of the fallen, and strove by raising 
themselves on the writhing bodies of their dying com- 
rades, or by fixing their spears in the crevices of the 

4 " Hondas, que eran la mas fuerte arma de pelea que los Mejicanos 
tenian." Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 


wall, to surmount the barrier. But the attempt proved 
equally vain. 

Defeated here, they tried to effect a breach in the 
parapet by battering it with heavy pieces of timber. 
The works were not constructed on those scientific 
principles by which one part is made to overlook and 
protect another. The besiegers, therefore, might oper- 
ate at their pleasure, with but little molestation from 
the garrison within, whose guns could not be brought 
into a position to bear on them, and who could mount 
no part of their own works for their defence without 
exposing their persons to the missiles of the whole 
besieging army. The parapet, however, proved too 
strong for the efforts of the assailants. In their despair, 
they endeavored to set the Christian quarters on fire, 
shooting burning arrows into them, and climbing up 
so as to dart their firebrands through the embrasures. 
The principal edifice was of stone. But the temporary 
defences of the Indian allies, and other parts of the ex- 
terior works, were of wood. Several of these took fire, 
and the flame spread rapidly among the light, com- 
bustible materials. This was a disaster for which the 
besieged were wholly unprepared. They had little 
water, scarcely enough for their own consumption. 
They endeavored to extinguish the flames by heap- 
ing on earth. But in vain. Fortunately, the great 
building was of materials which defied the destroying 
element. But the fire raged in some of the outworks, 
connected with the parapet, with a fury which could 
only be checked by throwing down a part of the wall 
itself, thus laying open a formidable breach. This, by 
the general's order, was speedily protected by a battery 


of heavy guns, and a file of arquebusiers, who kept up 
an incessant volley through the opening on the assail- 
ants. 5 

The fight now raged with fury on both sides. The 
walls around the palace belched forth an unintermit- 
ting sheet of flame and smoke. The groans of the 
wounded and dying were lost in the fiercer battle-cries 
of the combatants, the roar of the artillery, the sharper 
rattle of the musketry, and the hissing sound of Indian 
missiles. It was the conflict of the European with the 
American ; of civilized man with the barbarian ; of the 
science of the one with the rude weapons and warfare 
of the other. And as the ancient walls of Tenochtitlan 
shook under the thunders of the artillery, it announced 
that the white man, the destroyer, had set his foot 
within her precincts. 6 

Night at length came, and drew her friendly mantle 
over the contest. The Aztec seldom fought by night. 
It brought little repose, however, to the Spaniards, 
in hourly expectation of an assault ; and they found 
abundant occupation in restoring the breaches in their 
defences and in repairing their battered armor. The 
beleaguering host lay on their arms through the night, 

5 " En la Fortaleza daban tan recio combate, que por muchas partes 
nos pusieron fuego, y por la una se quemo mucha parte de ella, sin la 
poder remediar, hasta que la atajamos, cortando las paredes, y derro- 
cando un pedazo que mato el fuego. E si no fuera por la mucha 
Guarda, que alii puse de Escopeteros, y Ballesteros, y otros tiros de 
polvora, nos entraran & escala vista, sin los poder resistir." Rel. Seg. 
de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 134. 

6 Ibid., ubi supra. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 106. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., 
lib. 12, cap. 22. — Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 
26. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. T26. 



giving token of their presence, now and then, by sending 
a stone or shaft over the battlements, or by a solitary 
cry of defiance from some warrior more determined than 
the rest, till all other sounds were lost in the vague, 
indistinct murmurs which float upon the air in the 
neighborhood of a vast assembly. 

The ferocity shown by the Mexicans seems to have 
been a thing for which Cortes was wholly unprepared. 
His past experience, his uninterrupted career of vic- 
tory with a much feebler force at his command, had led 
him to underrate the military efficiency, as well as the 
valor, of the Indians. The apparent facility with which 
the Mexicans had acquiesced in the outrages on their 
sovereign and themselves had led him to hold their 
courage, in particular, too lightly. He could not be- 
lieve the present assault to be anything more than a 
temporary ebullition of the populace, which would 
soon waste itself by its own fury. And he proposed, 
on the following day, to sally out and inflict such chas- 
tisement on his foes as should bring them to their 
senses and show who was master in the capital. 

With early dawn, the Spaniards were up and under 
arms ; but not before their enemies had given evidence 
of their hostility by the random missiles which from 
time to time were sent into the enclosure. As the gray 
light of morning advanced, it showed the besieging 
army, far from being diminished in numbers, filling up 
the great square and neighboring avenues in more dense 
array than on the preceding evening. Instead of a 
confused, disorderly rabble, it had the appearance of 
something like a regular force, with its battalions dis- 
tributed under their respective banners, the devices of 


which showed a contribution from the principal cities 
and districts in the Valley. High above the rest was 
conspicuous the ancient standard of Mexico, with its 
well-known cognizance, an eagle pouncing on an 
ocelot, emblazoned on a rich mantle of feather-work. 
Here and there priests might be seen mingling in the 
ranks of the besiegers, and, with frantic gestures, 
animating them to avenge their insulted deities. 

The greater part of the enemy had little clothing 
save the maxtlatl, or sash round the loins. They were 
variously armed, with long spears tipped with copper 
or flint, or sometimes merely pointed and hardened in 
the fire. Some were provided with slings, and others 
with darts having two or three points, with long strings 
attached to them, by which, when discharged, they 
could be torn away again from the body of the wounded. 
This was a formidable weapon, much dreaded by the 
Spaniards. Those of a higher order wielded the ter- 
rible maquahuitl, with its sharp and brittle blades 
of obsidian. Amidst the motley bands of warriors 
were seen many whose showy dress and air of authority 
intimated persons of high military consequence. Their 
breasts were protected by plates of metal, over which 
was thrown the gay surcoat of feather-work. They 
wore casques resembling in their form the head of 
some wild and ferocious animal, crested with bristly 
hair, or overshadowed by tall and graceful plumes of 
many a brilliant color. Some few were decorated with 
the red fillet bound round the hair, having tufts of 
cotton attached to it, which denoted by their number 
that of the victories they had won, and their own pre- 
eminent rank among the warriors of the nation. The 



motley assembly plainly showed that priest, warrior, and 
citizen had all united to swell the tumult. 

Before the sun had shot his beams into the Castilian 
quarters, the enemy were in motion, evidently pre- 
paring to renew the assault of the preceding day. The 
Spanish commander determined to anticipate them by 
a vigorous sortie, for which he had already made the 
necessary dispositions. A general discharge of ordnance 
and musketry sent death far and wide into the enemy's 
ranks, and, before they had time to recover from their 
confusion, the gates were thrown open, and Cortes, 
sallying out at the head of his cavalry, supported by 
a large body of infantry and several thousand Tlasca- 
lans, rode at full gallop against them. Taken thus by 
surprise, it was scarcely possible to offer much resist- 
ance. Those who did were trampled down under the 
horses' feet, cut to pieces with the broadswords, or 
pierced with the lances of the riders. The infantry 
followed up the blow, and the rout for the moment was 

But the Aztecs fled only to take refuge behind a bar- 
ricade, or strong work of timber and earth, which had 
been thrown across the great street through which they 
were pursued. Rallying on the other side, they made 
a gallant stand, and poured in turn a volley of their 
light weapons on the Spaniards, who, saluted with a 
storm of missiles at the same time from the terraces of 
the houses, were checked in their career and thrown 
into some disorder. 7 

Cortes, thus impeded, ordered up a few pieces of 
heavy ordnance, which soon swept away the barricades 

7 Carta del ExeVcito, MS. 



and cleared a passage for the army. But it had lost 
the momentum acquired in its rapid advance. The 
enemy had time to rally and to meet the Spaniards on 
more equal terms. They were attacked in flank, too, 
as they advanced, by fresh battalions, who swarmed in 
from the adjoining streets and lanes. The canals were 
alive with boats filled with warriors, who with their 
formidable darts searched every crevice or weak place 
in the armor of proof, and made havoc on the un- 
protected bodies of the Tlascalans. By repeated and 
vigorous charges, the Spaniards succeeded in driving 
the Indians before them ; though many, with a despe- 
ration which showed they loved vengeance better than 
life, sought to embarrass the movements of their horses 
by clinging to their legs, or, more successfully, strove 
to pull the riders from their saddles. And woe to 
the unfortunate cavalier who was thus dismounted, 
— to be despatched by the brutal maqualmitl, or to 
be dragged on board a canoe to the bloody altar of 
sacrifice ! 

But the greatest annoyance which the Spaniards 
endured was from the missiles from the azoteas, con- 
sisting often of large stones, hurled with a force that 
would tumble the stoutest rider from his saddle. Galled 
in the extreme by these discharges, against which even 
their shields afforded no adequate protection, Cortes 
ordered fire to be set to the buildings. This was no 
very difficult matter, since, although chiefly of stone, 
they were filled with mats, cane-work, and other com- 
bustible materials, which were soon in a blaze. But 
the buildings stood separated from one another by 
canals and draw-bridges, so that the flames did not 



easily communicate to the neighboring edifices. Hence 
the labor of the Spaniards was incalculably increased, 
and their progress in the work of destruction — for- 
tunately for the city — was comparatively slow. 8 They 
did not relax their efforts, however, till several hundred 
houses had been consumed, and the miseries of a con- 
flagration, in which the wretched inmates perished 
equally with the defenders, were added to the other 
horrors of the scene. 

The day was now far spent. The Spaniards had 
been everywhere victorious. But the enemy, though 
driven back on every point, still kept the field. When 
broken by the furious charges of the cavalry, he soon 
rallied behind the temporary defences, which, at dif- 
ferent intervals, had been thrown across the streets, 
and, facing about, renewed the fight with undiminished 
courage, till the sweeping away of the barriers by the 
cannon of the assailants left a free passage for the 
movements of their horse. Thus the action was a suc- 
cession of rallying and retreating, in which both parties 
suffered much, although the loss inflicted on the In- 
dians was probably tenfold greater than that of the 
Spaniards. But the Aztecs could better afford the loss 
of a hundred lives than their antagonists that of one. 
And, while the Spaniards showed an array broken and 

8 " Estdn todas en el agua, y de casa A casa vna puente leuadiza, 
passalla d nado, era cosa muy peligrosa ; porque desde las acuteas 
tirauan tanta piedra, y cantos, que era cosa perdida ponernos en ello. 
Y demas desto, en algunas casas que les poniamos fuego, tardaua vna 
casa en se quemar vn dia entero, y no se podia pegar fuego de vna 
casa & otra; lo vno, por estar apartadas la vna de otra el agua en 
medio ; y lo otro, por ser de acuteas." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
quista, cap. 126. 

Vol. II. 26 



obviously thinned in numbers, the Mexican army, 
swelled by the tributary levies which flowed in upon it 
from the neighboring streets, exhibited, with all its 
losses, no sign of diminution. At length, sated with 
carnage, and exhausted by toil and hunger, the Spanish 
commander drew off his men, and sounded a retreat. 9 
On his way back to his quarters, he beheld his friend 
the secretary Duero, in a street adjoining, unhorsed, 
and hotly engaged with a body of Mexicans, against 
whom he was desperately defending himself with his 
poniard. Cortes, roused at the sight, shouted his war- 
cry, and, dashing into the midst of the enemy, scattered 
them like chaff by the fury of his onset ; then, recover- 
ing his friend's horse, he enabled him to remount, and 
the two cavaliers, striking their spurs into their steeds, 
burst through their opponents and joined the main 
body of the army. 10 Such displays of generous gal- 
lantry were not uncommon in these engagements, 
which called forth more feats of personal adventure 
than battles with antagonists better skilled in the 
science of war. The chivalrous bearing of the general 
was emulated in full measure by Sandoval, De Leon, 

9 "The Mexicans fought with such ferocity," says Diaz, "that, if 
we had had the assistance on that day of ten thousand Hectors, and 
as many Orlandos, we should have made no impression on them. 
There were several of our troops," he adds, " who had served in the 
Italian wars, but neither there nor in the battles with the Turk had 
they ever seen anything like the desperation shown by these Indians." 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126. See, also, for the last pages, Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 135, — Ixtlilxochitl, Relaciones, MS., 
— Probanza i. pedimento de Juan de Lexalde, MS., — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 196. 

10 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. — Torquemada, 
Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69. 



Olid, Alvarado, Ordaz, and his other brave companions, 
who won such glory under the eye of their leader as 
prepared the way for the independent commands which 
afterwards placed provinces and kingdoms at their dis- 

The undaunted Aztecs hung on the rear of their 
retreating foes, annoying them at every step by fresh 
flights of stones and arrows ; and, when the Spaniards 
had re-entered their fortress, the Indian host encamped 
around it, showing the same dogged resolution as on 
the preceding evening. Though true to their ancient 
habits of inaction during the night, they broke the 
stillness of the hour by insulting cries and menaces, 
which reached the ears of the besieged. "The gods 
have delivered you, at last, into our hands," they said; 
" Huitzilopochtli has long cried for his victims. The 
stone of sacrifice is ready. The knives are sharpened. 
The wild beasts in the palace are roaring for their offal. 
And the cages," they added, taunting the Tlascalans 
with their leanness, "are waiting for the false sons of 
Anahuac, who are to be fattened for the festival!" 
These dismal menaces, which sounded fearfully in the 
ears of the besieged, who understood too well their im- 
port, were mingled with piteous lamentations for their 
sovereign, whom they called on the Spaniards to deliver 
up to them. 

Cortes suffered much from a severe wound which he 
had received in the hand in the late action. But the 
anguish of his mind must have been still greater as he 
brooded over the dark prospect before him. He had 
mistaken the character of the Mexicans. Their long 
and patient endurance had been a violence to their 


natural temper, which, as their whole history proves, 
was arrogant and ferocious beyond that of most of the 
races of Anahuac. The restraint which, in deference to 
their monarch more than to their own fears, they had 
so long put on their natures, being once removed, their 
passions burst forth with accumulated violence. The 
Spaniards had encountered in the Tlascalan an open 
enemy, who had no grievance to complain of, no 
wrong to redress. He fought under the vague appre- 
hension only of some coming evil to his country. But 
the Aztec, hitherto the proud lord of the land, was 
goaded by insult and injury, till he had reached that 
pitch of self-devotion which made life cheap in com- 
parison with revenge. Armed thus with the energy of 
despair, the savage is almost a match for the civilized 
man ; and a whole nation, moved to its depths by a 
common feeling, which swallows up all selfish con- 
siderations of personal interest and safety, becomes, 
whatever be its resources, like the earthquake and the 
tornado, the most formidable among the agencies of 

Considerations of this kind may have passed through 
the mind of Cortes, as he reflected on his own impo- 
tence to restrain the fury of the Mexicans, and resolved, 
in despite of his late supercilious treatment of Monte- 
zuma, to employ his authority to allay the tumult, — 
an authority so successfully exerted in behalf of Alva- 
rado at an earlier stage of the insurrection. He was 
the more confirmed in his purpose on the following 
morning, when the assailants, redoubling their efforts, 
succeeded in scaling the works in one quarter and 
effecting an entrance into the enclosure. It is true, 



they were met with so resolute a spirit that not a man 
of those who entered was left alive. But, in the im- 
petuosity of the assault, it seemed, for a few moments, 
as if the place was to be carried by storm." 

Cortes now sent to the Aztec emperor to request his 
interposition with his subjects in behalf of the Span- 
iards. But Montezuma was not in the humor to com- 
ply. He had remained moodily in his quarters ever 
since the general's return. Disgusted with the treat- 
ment he had received, he had still further cause for 
mortification in finding himself the ally of those who 
were the open enemies of his nation. From his apart- 
ment he had beheld the tragical scenes in his capital, 
and seen another, the presumptive heir to his throne, 
taking the place which he should have occupied at the 
head of his warriors and fighting the battles of his 
country. 12 Distressed by his position, indignant at 
those who had placed him in it, he coldly answered, 
"What have I to do with Malinche ? I do not wish 
to hear from him. I desire only to die. To what a 
state has my willingness to serve him reduced me !" I3 
When urged still further to comply by Olid and Father 

11 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. 

12 Cortes sent Marina to ascertain from Montezuma the name of the 
gallant chief, who could be easily seen from the walls animating and 
directing his countrymen. The emperor informed him that it was his 
brother Cuitlahua, the presumptive heir to his crown, and the same 
chief whom the Spanish commander had released a few days previous. 
Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10. 

x 3 " d Que quiere de mi ya Malinche, que yo no deseo viuir ni oille ? 
pues en tal estado por su causa mi ventura me ha traido." Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126. 


Olmedo, he added, " It is of no use. They will neither 
believe me, nor the false words and promises of Ma- 
linche. You will never leave these walls alive." On 
being assured, however, that the Spaniards would will- 
ingly depart if a way were opened to them by their 
enemies, he at length — moved, probably, more by the 
desire to spare the blood of his subjects than of the 
Christians — consented to expostulate with his people. 14 
In order to give the greater effect to his presence, he 
put on his imperial robes. The tilmatli, his mantle of 
white and blue, flowed over his shoulders, held together 
by its rich clasp of the green chalchivitl. The same 
precious gem, with emeralds of uncommon size, set in 
gold, profusely ornamented other parts of his dress. 
His feet were shod with the golden sandals, and his 
brows covered by the copilli, or Mexican diadem, 
resembling in form the pontifical tiara. Thus attired, 
and surrounded by a guard of Spaniards and several 
Aztec nobles, and preceded by the golden wand, the 
symbol of sovereignty, the Indian monarch ascended 
the central turret of the palace. His presence was 
instantly recognized by the people, and, as the royal 
retinue advanced along the battlements, a change, as 
if by magic, came over the scene. The clang of instru- 
ments, the fierce cries of the assailants, were hushed, 
and a deathlike stillness pervaded the whole assembly, 
so fiercely agitated, but a few moments before, by the 
wild tumult of war ! Many prostrated themselves on 
the ground ; others bent the knee ; and all turned 
with eager expectation towards the monarch whom 

J 4 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., cap. 88. 



they had been taught to reverence with slavish awe, 
and from whose countenance they had been wont to 
turn away as from the intolerable splendors of divinity. 
Montezuma saw his advantage ; and, while he stood 
thus confronted with his awe-struck people, he seemed 
to recover all his former authority and confidence, as 
he felt himself to be still a king. With a calm voice, 
easily heard over the silent assembly, he is said by the 
Castilian writers to have thus addressed them : 

"Why do I see my people here in arms against the 
palace of my fathers ? Is it that you think your sov- 
ereign a prisoner, and wish to release him ? If so, you 
have acted rightly. But you are mistaken. I am no 
prisoner. The strangers are my guests. I remain with 
them only from choice, and can leave them when I list. 
Have you come to drive them from the city ? That is 
unnecessary. They will depart of their own accord, 
if you will open a way for them. Return to your 
homes, then. Lay down your arms. Show your obe- 
dience to me who have a right to it. The white men 
shall go back to their own land ; and all shall be well 
again within the walls of Tenochtitlan." 

As Montezuma announced himself the friend of the 
detested strangers, a murmur ran through the multi- 
tude ; a murmur of contempt for the pusillanimous 
prince who could show himself so insensible to the 
insults and injuries for which the nation was in arms. 
The swollen tide of their passions swept away all the 
barriers of ancient reverence, and, taking a new direc- 
tion, descended on the head of the unfortunate mon- 
arch, so far degenerated from his warlike ancestors. 
"Base Aztec," they exclaimed, "woman, coward! the 

3 o8 


white men have made you a woman, — fit only to weave 
and spin ! ' ' These bitter taunts were soon followed 
by still more hostile demonstrations. A chief, it is 
said, of high rank, bent a bow or brandished a javelin 
with an air of defiance against the emperor, 15 when, in 
an instant, a cloud of stones and arrows descended on 
the spot where the royal train was gathered. The 
Spaniards appointed to protect his person had been 
thrown off their guard by the respectful deportment 
of the people during their lord's address. They now 
hastily interposed their bucklers. But it was too late. 
Montezuma was wounded by three of the missiles, one 
of which, a stone, fell with such violence on his head, 
near the temple, as brought him senseless to the ground. 
The Mexicans, shocked at their own sacrilegious act, 
experienced a sudden revulsion of feeling, and, setting 
up a dismal cry, dispersed, panic-struck, in different 
directions. Not one of the multitudinous array re- 
mained in the great square before the palace ! 

The unhappy prince, meanwhile, was borne by his 
attendants to his apartments below. On recovering 
from the insensibility caused by the blow, the wretch- 
edness of his condition broke upon him. He had 
tasted the last bitterness of degradation. He had been 
reviled, rejected, by his people. The meanest of the 
rabble had raised their hands against him. He had 
nothing more to live for. It was in vain that Cortes 
and his officers endeavored to soothe the anguish of his 
spirit and fill him with better thoughts. He spoke not 

j s Acosta reports a tradition that Guatemozin, Montezuma's nephew, 
who himself afterwards succeeded to the throne, was the man that 
shot the first arrow. Lib. 7, cap. 26. 



a word in answer. His wound, though dangerous, 
might still, with skilful treatment, not prove mortal. 
But Montezuma refused all the remedies prescribed for 
it. He tore off the bandages as often as they were 
applied, maintaining, all the while, the most determin 
silence. He sat with eyes dejected, brooding over his 
fallen fortunes, over the image of ancient majesty and 
present humiliation. He had survived his honor. But 
a spark of his ancient spirit seemed to kindle in his 
bosom, as it was clear he did not mean to survive his 
disgrace. From this painful scene the Spanish general 
and his followers were soon called away by the new 
dangers which menaced the garrison. 16 

16 I have reported this tragical event, and the circumstances attend- 
ing it, as they are given, in more or less detail, but substantially in the 
same way, by the most accredited writers of that and the following age, 
— several of them eye-witnesses. (See Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
quista, cap. 126. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — 
Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 136. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlas- 
cala, MS. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. — Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10. — Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, 
cap. 70. — Acosta, ubi supra. — Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5.) 
It is also confirmed by Cortes in the instrument granting to Monte- 
zuma's favorite daughter certain estates by way of dowry. (See Ap- 
pendix, Part 2, No. 12.) Don Thoan Cano, indeed, who married this 
princess, assured Oviedo that the Mexicans respected the person of 
the monarch so long as they saw him, and were not aware, when they 
discharged their missiles, that he was present, being hid from sight by 
the shields of tne Spaniards. (See Appendix, Part 2, No. 11.) This 
improbable statement is repeated by the chaplain Gomara. (Cronica, 
cap. 107.) It is rejected by Oviedo, however, who says that Alvarado, 
himself present at the scene, in a conversation with him afterwards, 
explicitly confirmed the narrative given in the text. (Hist, de las Ind., 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) The Mexicans gave a very different account 
of the transaction. According to them, Montezuma, together with 
the lords of Tezcuco and Tlatelolco, then detained as prisoners in the 



fortress by the Spaniards, were all strangled by means of the garrote, 
and their dead bodies thrown over the walls to their countrymen. I 
quote the original of Father Sahagun, who gathered the story from 
the Aztecs themselves : 

" De esta manera se determin&ron los Espafioles £ morir 6 veneer 
varonilmente ; y asi hablaron 6. todos los amigos Indios, y todos ellos 
estuvieron firmes en esta determinacion : y lo primero que hicieron 
fue que dieron garrote & todos los Senores que tenian presos, y los 
echaron muertos fuera del fuerte : y antes que esto hiciesen les dijeron 
much as cosas, y les hicieron saber su determinacion, y que de ellos 
habia de comenzar esta obra, y luego todos los demas habian de ser 
muertos a sus manos, dijeronles, no es posible que vuestros Idolos os 
libren de nuestras manos. Y desque les hubieron dado Garrote, y 
vieron que estaban muertos, mandaronlos echar por las azoteas, fuera 
de la casa, en un lugar que se llama Tortuga de Piedra, porque alii 
estaba una piedra labrada i. manera de Tortuga. Y desque supieron 
y vieron los de & fuera, que aquellos Senores tan principales habian 
sido muertos por las manos de los Espafioles, luego tom&ron los cuer- 
pos, y les hicieron sus exequias, al modo de su Idolatria, y quemaron 
sus cuerpos, y tomaron sus cenizas, y las pusieron en lugares apropia- 
das & sus dignidades y valor." Hist, de Nueva-Espaha, MS., lib. 12, 
cap. 23. 

It is hardly necessary to comment on the absurdity of this mon- 
strous imputation, which, however, has found favor with some later 
writers. Independently of all other considerations, the Spaniards 
would have been slow to compass the Indian monarch's death, since, 
as the Tezcucan Ixtlilxochitl truly observes, it was the most fatal blow 
which could befall them, by dissolving the last tie which held them to 
the Mexicans. Hist. Chich., MS., ubi supra. 






Opposite to the Spanish quarters, at only a few rods' 
distance, stood the great teocalli of Huitzilopochtli. 
This pyramidal • mound, with the sanctuaries that 
crowned it, rising altogether to the height of near a 
hundred and fifty feet, afforded an elevated position 
that completely commanded the palace of Axayacatl, 
occupied by the Christians. A body of five or six 
hundred Mexicans, many of them nobles and warriors 
of the highest rank, had got possession of the teocalli, 
whence they discharged such a tempest of arrows on 
the garrison that no one could leave his defences for a 
moment without imminent danger; while the Mexicans, 
under shelter of the sanctuaries, were entirely covered 
from the fire of the besieged. It was obviously neces- 
sary to dislodge the enemy, if the Spaniards would 
remain longer in their quarters. 

Cortes assigned this service to his chamberlain, 
Escobar, giving him a hundred men for the purpose, 
with orders to storm the teocalli and set fire to the 
sanctuaries. But that officer was thrice repulsed in 
the attempt, and, after the most desperate efforts, was 



obliged to return with considerable loss and without 
accomplishing his object. 

Cortes, who saw the immediate necessity of carrying 
the place, determined to lead the storming party him- 
self. He was then suffering much from the wound in 
his left hand, which had disabled it for the present. 
He made the arm serviceable, however, by fastening 
his buckler to it, 1 and, thus crippled, sallied out at the 
head of three hundred chosen cavaliers and several 
thousand of his auxiliaries. 

In the court-yard of the temple he found a numerous 
body of Indians prepared to dispute his passage. He 
briskly charged them ; but the flat smooth stones of 
the pavement were so slippery that the horses lost their 
footing and many of them fell. Hastily dismounting, 
they sent back the animals to their quarters, and, re- 
newing the assault, the Spaniards succeeded without 
much difficulty in dispersing the Indian warriors and 
opening a free passage for themselves to the teocalli. 
This building, as the reader may remember, was a huge 
pyramidal structure, about three hundred feet square at 
the base. A flight of stone steps on the outside, at one 
of the angles of the mound, led to a platform, or ter- 
raced walk, which passed round the building until it 
reached a similar flight of stairs directly over the pre- 
ceding, that conducted to another landing as before. 
As there were five bodies or divisions of the teocalli, 
it became necessary to pass round its whole extent four 

1 " Sali fuera de la Fortaleza, aunque manco de la mano izquierda de 
una herida que el primer dia me habian dado : y liada la rodela en 
el brazo fuy & la Torre con algunos Espanoles, que me siguieron." 
Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138. 


3 I 3 

times, or nearly a mile, in order to reach the summit, 
which, it may be recollected, was an open area, crowned 
only by the two sanctuaries dedicated to the Aztec 
deities. 2 

Cortes, having cleared a way for the assault, sprang 
up the lower stairway, followed by Alvarado, Sandoval, 
Ordaz, and the other gallant cavaliers of his little band, 
leaving a file of arquebusiers and a strong corps of In- 
dian allies to hold the enemy in check at the foot of 
the monument. On the first landing, as well as on the 
several galleries above, and on the summit, the Aztec 
warriors were drawn up to dispute his passage. From 
their elevated position they showered down volleys of 
lighter missiles, together with heavy stones, beams, and 
burning rafters, which, thundering along the stair- 
way, overturned the ascending Spaniards and carried 
desolation through their ranks. The more fortunate, 
eluding or springing over these obstacles, succeeded 
in gaining the first terrace ; where, throwing themselves 
on their enemies, they compelled them, after a short 
resistance, to fall back. The assailants pressed on, 
effectually supported by a brisk fire of the musketeers 
from below, which so much galled the Mexicans in their 
exposed situation that they were glad to take shelter on 
the broad summit of the teocalli. 

Cortes and his comrades were close upon their rear, 
and the two parties soon found themselves face to face 
on this aerial battle-field, engaged in mortal combat in 

■ See ante, pp. 138-141. — I have ventured to repeat the description 
of the temple here, as it is important that the reader, who may perhaps 
not turn to the preceding pages, should have a distinct image of it in 
his own mind before beginning the account of the combat. 
Vol. II. — o 27 


presence of the whole city, as well as of the troops in 
the court-yard, who paused, as if by mutual consent, 
from their own hostilities, gazing in silent expectation 
on the issue of those above. The area, though some- 
what smaller than the base of the teocalli, was large 
enough to afford a fair field of fight for a thousand 
combatants. It was paved with broad, flat stones. No 
impediment occurred over its surface, except the huge 
sacrificial block, and the temples of stone which rose 
to the height of forty feet, at the farther extremity of 
the arena. One of these had been consecrated to the 
Cross. The other was still occupied by the Mexican 
war-god. The Christian and the Aztec contended for 
their religions under the very shadow of their respect- 
ive shrines ; while the Indian priests, running to and 
fro, with their hair wildly streaming over their sable 
mantles, seemed hovering in mid-air, like so many 
demons of darkness urging on the work of slaughter ! 
The parties closed with the desperate fury of men 
who had no hope but in victory. Quarter was neither 
asked nor given ; and to fly was impossible. The edge 
of the area was unprotected by parapet or battlement. 
The least slip would be fatal ; and the combatants, as 
they struggled in mortal agony, were sometimes seen 
to roll over the sheer sides of the precipice together. 3 

3 Many of the Aztecs, according to Sahagun, seeing the fate of such 
of their comrades as fell into the hands of the Spaniards on the 
narrow terraces below, voluntarily threw themselves headlong from 
the lofty summit and were dashed in pieces on the pavement. " Y 
los de arriba viendo A los de abajo muertos, y A los de arriba que los 
iban matando los que habian subido, comenz&ron & arrojarse del cu 
abajo, desde lo alto, los cuales todos morian despenados, quebrados 
brazos y piernas, y hechos pedazos, porque el cu era muy alto ; y otros 


Cortes himself is said to have had a narrow escape from 
this dreadful fate. Two warriors, of strong, muscular 
frames, seized on him, and were dragging him violently 
towards the brink of the pyramid. Aware of their 
intention, he struggled with all his force, and, before 
they could accomplish their purpose, succeeded in tear- 
ing himself from their grasp and hurling one of them 
over the walls with his own arm ! The story is not im- 
probable in itself, for Cortes was a man of uncommon 
agility and strength. It has been often repeated ; but 
not by contemporary history. 4 

The battle lasted with unintermitting fury for three 
hours. The number of the enemy was double that of 
the Christians ; and it seemed as if it were a contest 
which must be determined by numbers and brute force, 
rather than by superior science. But it was not so. 
The invulnerable armor of the Spaniard, his sword of 
matchless temper, and his skill in the use of it, gave 
him advantages which far outweighed the odds of 
physical strength and numbers. After doing all that 
the courage of despair could enable men to do, resist- 
ance grew fainter and fainter on the side of the Aztecs. 
One after another they had fallen. Two or three 

los mesmos Espafioles los arrojaban de lo alto del cu, y asi todos 
cuantos alia habian subido de los Mexicanos, murieron mala muerte." 
Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22. 

4 Among others, see Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9, — 
Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69, — and Solis, very circum- 
stantially, as usual, Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 16. — The first of these 
authors had access to some contemporary sources, the chronicle of 
the old soldier, Ojeda, for example, not now to be met with. It is 
strange that so valiant an exploit should not have been communicated 
by Cortes himself, who cannot be accused of diffidence in such 


priests only survived, to be led away in triumph by the 
victors. Every other combatant was stretched a corpse 
on the bloody arena, or had been hurled from the 
giddy heights. Yet the loss of the Spaniards was not 
inconsiderable. It amounted to forty-five of their best 
men ; and nearly all the remainder were more or less 
injured in the desperate conflict. 5 

The victorious cavaliers now rushed towards the 
sanctuaries. The lower story was of stone \ the two 
upper were of wood. Penetrating into their recesses, 
they had the mortification to find the image of the 
Virgin and the Cross removed. 6 But in the other 
edifice they still beheld the grim figure of Huitzilo- 
pochtli, with his censer of smoking hearts, and the 
walls of his oratory reeking with gore, — not improba- 
bly of their own countrymen ! With shouts of triumph 

5 Captain Diaz, a little loth sometimes, is emphatic in his encomiums 
on the valor shown by his commander on this occasion. " Here 
Cortes showed himself a very man, such as he always was. Oh what 
a fighting, what a strenuous battle, did we have 1 It was a memora- 
ble thing to see us flowing with blood and full of wounds, and more 
than forty soldiers slain." (Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126.) The 
pens of the old chroniclers keep pace with their swords in the display 
of this brilliant exploit: — " colla penna e colla spada," equally for- 
tunate. See Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138. — Gomara, 
Cr6nica, cap. 106. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, 
cap. 22. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. — Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Torquemada, Monarch. 
Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69. 

6 Archbishop Lorenzana is of opinion that this image of the Virgin 
is the same now seen in the church of Nuestra Setiora de los Reme- 
dios / (Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 138, nota.) In what 
way the Virgin survived the sack of the city and was brought to light 
again, he does not inform us. But the more difficult to explain, the 
more undoubted the miracle. 


3 [ 7 

the Christians tore the uncouth monster from his niche, 
and tumbled him, in the presence of the horror-struck 
Aztecs, down the steps of the teocalli* They then set 
fire to the accursed building. The flames speedily ran 
up the slender towers, sending forth an ominous light 
over city, lake, and valley, to the remotest hut among 
the mountains. It was the funeral pyre of paganism, 
and proclaimed the fall of that sanguinary religion 
which had so long hung like a dark cloud over the fair 
regions of Anahuac ! 7 

Having accomplished this good work, the Spaniards 
descended the winding slopes of the teocalli with more 
free and buoyant step, as if conscious that the blessing 
of Heaven now rested on their arms. They passed 
through the dusky files of Indian warriors in the court- 

7 No achievement in the war struck more awe into the Mexicans 
than this storming of the great temple, in which the white men seemed 
to bid defiance equally to the powers of God and man. Hieroglyph- 
ical paintings minutely commemorating it were to be frequently found 
among the natives after the Conquest. The sensitive Captain Diaz 
intimates that those which he saw made full as much account of the 
wounds and losses of the Christians as the facts would warrant. (Hist. 
de la Conquista, ubi supra.) It was the only way in which the con- 
quered could take their revenge. 

* [Sir Arthur Helps speaks, rather oddly, of Cortes having set fire 
to this image. Neither Cortes himself nor Bernal Diaz mentions any 
such attempt to burn what is described as a " huge block of basalt, 
covered with sculptured figures." It is now in the Museum at Mexico, 
having lain undiscovered in the great square, close to the site of the 
teocalli, till the end of the last century. " For some years after that it 
was kept buried, lest the sight of one of their old deities might be too 
exciting for the Indians, who had certainly not forgotten it, and secretly 
ornamented it with flowers as long as it remained above ground." 
Tylor, Anahuac, p. 223. — Ed.] 



yard, too much dismayed by the appalling scenes they 
had witnessed to offer resistance, and reached their 
own quarters in safety. That very night they followed 
up the blow by a sortie on the sleeping town, and 
burned three hundred houses, the horrors of confla- 
gration being made still more impressive by occurring 
at the hour when the Aztecs, from their own system of 
warfare, were least prepared for them. 8 

Hoping to find the temper of the natives somewhat 
subdued by these reverses, Cortes now determined, with 
his usual policy, to make them a vantage-ground for pro- 
posing terms of accommodation. He accordingly in- 
vited the enemy to a parley, and, as the principal chiefs, 
attended by their followers, assembled in the great 
square, he mounted the turret before occupied by Mon- 
tezuma, and made signs that he would address them. 
Marina, as usual, took her place by his side, as his in- 
terpreter. The multitude gazed with earnest curiosity 
on the Indian girl, whose influence with the Spaniards 
was well known, and whose connection with the gen- 
eral, in particular, had led the Aztecs to designate him 
by her Mexican name of Malinche. 9 Cortes, speaking 

8 " Sequenti nocte, nostri erumpentes in vna viarum arci vicina, 
domos combussere tercentum : in altera plerasque e quibus arci 
molestia fiebat. Ita nunc trucidando, nunc diruendo, et interdum 
vulnera recipiendo, in pontibus et in viis, diebus noctibusque multis 
laboratum est utrinque." (Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.) 
In the number of actions and their general result, namely, the victories, 
barren victories, of the Christians, all writers are agreed. But as to 
time, place, circumstance, or order, no two hold together. How shall 
the historian of the present day make a harmonious tissue out of 
these motley and many-colored threads ? 

9 It is the name by which she is still celebrated in the popular 
minstrelsy of Mexico. Was the famous Tlascalan mountain, sierra de 


through the soft, musical tones of his mistress, told his 
audience they must now be convinced that they had 
nothing further to hope from opposition to the Span- 
iards. They had seen their gods trampled in the dust, 
their altars broken, their dwellings burned, their war- 
riors falling on all sides. "All this," continued he, 
<f you have brought on yourselves by your rebellion. 
Yet, for the affection the sovereign whom you have so 
unworthily treated stills bears you, I would willingly 
stay my hand, if you will lay down your arms and 
return once more to your obedience. But, if you do 
not," he concluded, " I will make your city a heap of 
ruins, and leave not a soul alive to mourn over it ! " 

But the Spanish commander did not yet comprehend 
the character of the Aztecs, if he thought to intimidate 
them by menaces. Calm in their exterior, and slow 
to move, they were the more difficult to pacify when 
roused ; and now that they had been stirred to their 
inmost depths, it was no human voice that could still 
the tempest. It may be, however, that Cortes did not 
so much misconceive the character of the people. He 
may have felt that an authoritative tone was the only 
one he could assume with any chance of effect in his 
present position, in which milder and more concilia- 
tory language would, by intimating a consciousness of 
inferiority, have too certainly defeated its own object. 

It was true, they answered, he had destroyed their 
temples, broken in pieces their gods, massacred their 
countrymen. Many more, doubtless, were yet to fall 

Malinche, — anciently " Mattalcueye," — named in compliment to the 
Indian damsel ? At all events, it was an honor well merited from her 
adopted countrymen. 

3 2 ° 


under their terrible swords. But they were content so 
long as for every thousand Mexicans they could shed 
the blood of a single white man ! I0 " Look out," they 
continued, "on our terraces and streets; see them still 
thronged with warriors as far as your eyes can reach. 
Our numbers are scarcely diminished by our losses. 
Yours, on the contrary, are lessening every hour. You 
are perishing from hunger and sickness. Your pro- 
visions and water are failing. You must soon fall into 
our hands. The bridges are broken down, and you can- 
not escape ! " There will be too few of you left to 
glut the vengeance of our gods !" As they concluded, 
they sent a volley of arrows over the battlements, 
which compelled the Spaniards to descend and take 
refuge in their defences. 

The fierce and indomitable spirit of the Aztecs filled 
the besieged with dismay. All, then, that they had 
done and suffered, their battles by day, their vigils by 
night, the perils they had braved, even the victories 
they had won, were of no avail. It was too evident 
that they had no longer the spring of ancient super- 
stition to work upon in the breasts of the natives, 
who, like some wild beast that has burst the bonds of 
his keeper, seemed now to swell and exult in the full 
consciousness of their strength. The annunciation 
respecting the bridges fell like a knell on the ears of the 

10 According to Cortes, they boasted, in somewhat loftier strain, 
they could spare twenty-five thousand for one : "£ morir veinte y 
cinco mil de ellos, y uno de los nuestros." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 139. 

11 " Que todas las calzadas de las entradas de la ciudad eran des- 
hechas, como de hecho passaba." Ibid., loc. cit. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 



Christians. All that they had heard was too true; 
and they gazed on one another with looks of anxiety 
and dismay. 

The same consequences followed which sometimes 
take place among the crew of a shipwrecked vessel. 
Subordination was lost in the dreadful sense of danger. 
A spirit of mutiny broke out, especially among the 
recent levies drawn from the army of Narvaez. They 
had come into the country from no motive of ambition, 
but attracted simply by the glowing reports of its opu 
lence, and they had fondly hoped to return in a few 
months with their pockets well lined with the gold of 
the Aztec monarch. But how different had been their 
lot ! From the first hour of their landing, they had 
experienced only trouble and disaster, privations of 
every description, sufferings unexampled, and they now 
beheld in perspective a fate yet more appalling. Bit- 
terly did they lament the hour when they left the sunny 
fields of Cuba for these cannibal regions ! And heartily 
did they curse their own folly in listening to the call 
of Velasquez, and still more in embarking under the 
banner of Cortes ! I2 

They now demanded, with noisy vehemence, to be 
led instantly from the city, and refused to serve longer 
in defence of a place where they were cooped up like 
sheep in the shambles, waiting only to be dragged to 
slaughter. In all this they were rebuked by the more 

re " Pues tambien quiero dezir las maldiciones que los de Narvaez 
echauan &. Cortes, y las palabras que dezian, que renegauan del, y de 
la tierra, y aun de Diego Velasquez, que acd les embio, que bien 
pacificos estauan en sus casas en la Isla de Cuba, y estavan embelesa- 
dos, y sin sentido." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 



orderly, soldier-like conduct of the veterans of Cortes. 
These latter had shared with their general the day 
of his prosperity, and they were not disposed to 
desert him in the tempest. It was, indeed, obvious, 
on a little reflection, that the only chance of safety, 
in the existing crisis, rested on subordination and 
union, and that even this chance must be greatly 
diminished under any other leader than their present 

Thus pressed by enemies without and by factions 
within, that leader was found, as usual, true to him- 
self. Circumstances so appalling as would have par- 
alyzed a common mind only stimulated his to higher 
action and drew forth all its resources. He combined, 
what is most rare, singular coolness and constancy of 
purpose with a spirit of enterprise that might well be 
called romantic. His presence of mind did not now 
desert him. He calmly surveyed his condition and 
weighed the difficulties which surrounded him, before 
coming to a decision. Independently of the hazard 
of a retreat in the face of a watchful and desperate 
foe, it was a deep mortification to surrender up the city 
where he had so long lorded it as a master ; to abandon 
the rich treasures which he had secured to himself and 
his followers ; to forego the very means by which he 
had hoped to propitiate the favor of his sovereign and 
secure an amnesty for his irregular proceedings. This, 
he well knew, must, after all, be dependent on success. 
To fly now was to acknowledge himself further removed 
from the conquest than ever. What a close was this to 
a career so auspiciously begun ! What a contrast to 
his magnificent vaunts ! What a triumph would it 


3 2 3 

afford to his enemies ! The governor of Cuba would 
be amply revenged. 

But, if such humiliating reflections crowded on his 
mind, the alternative of remaining, in his present crip- 
pled condition, seemed yet more desperate. 13 With 
his men daily diminishing in strength and numbers, 
their provisions reduced so low that a small daily ration 
of bread was all the sustenance afforded to the soldier 
under his extraordinary fatigues, 14 with the breaches 
every day widening in his feeble fortifications, with his 
ammunition, in fine, nearly expended, it would be 
impossible to maintain the place much longer — and 
none but men of iron constitutions and tempers, like 
the Spaniards, could have held it so long — against 
the enemy. The chief embarrassment was as to the 
time and manner in which it would be expedient to 
evacuate the city. The best route seemed to be that 
of Tlacopan (Tacuba). For the causeway, the most 
dangerous part of the road, was but two miles long in 
that direction, and would, therefore, place the fugi- 
tives, much sooner than either of the other great 
avenues, on terra firma. Before his final departure, 
however, Cortes proposed to make another sally, in 
order to reconnoitre the ground, and, at the same time, 
divert the enemy's attention from his real purpose by a 
show of active operations. 

J 3 Notwithstanding this, in the petition or letter from Vera Cruz, 
addressed by the army to the Emperor Charles V., after the Conquest, 
the importunity of the soldiers is expressly stated as the principal 
motive that finally induced their general to abandon the city. Carta 
del Exercito, MS. 

J 4 " The scarcity was such that the ration of the Indians was a small 
cake, and that of the Spaniards fifty grains of maize." Herrera, 
Hist general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. 

3 2 4 


For some days his workmen had been employed in 
constructing a military machine of his own invention. 
It was called a manta, and was contrived somewhat on 
the principle of the mantelets used in the wars of the 
Middle Ages. It was, however, more complicated, 
consisting of a tower made of light beams and planks, 
having two chambers, one over the other. These were 
to be filled with musketeers, and the sides were pro- 
vided with loop-holes, through which a fire could be 
kept up on the enemy. The great advantage proposed 
by this contrivance was to afford a defence to the troops 
against the missiles hurled from the terraces. These 
machines, three of which were made, rested on rollers, 
and were provided with strong ropes, by which they 
were to be dragged along the streets by the Tlascalan 
auxiliaries. 15 

The Mexicans gazed with astonishment on this war- 
like machinery, and, as the rolling fortresses advanced, 
belching forth fire and smoke from their entrails, the 

*5 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 135. — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 106. — Dr. Bird, in his picturesque romance of " Calavar," has 
made good use of these manias, better, indeed, than can be permitted 
to the historian. He claims the privilege of the romancer; though it 
must be owned he does not abuse this privilege, for he has studied 
with great care the costume, manners, and military usages of the 
natives. He has done for them what Cooper has done for the wild 
tribes of the North, — touched their rude features with the bright 
coloring of a poetic fancy. He has been equally fortunate in his de- 
lineation of the picturesque scenery of the land. If he has been less 
so in attempting to revive the antique dialogue of the Spanish cavalier, 
we must not be surprised. Nothing is more difficult than the skilful 
execution of a modern antique. It requires all the genius and learn- 
ing of Scott to execute it so that the connoisseur shall not detect the 


3 2 5 

enemy, incapable of making an impression on those 
within, fell back in dismay. By bringing the manias 
under the walls of the houses, the Spaniards were 
enabled to fire with effect on the mischievous tenants 
of the azoteas, and, when this did not silence them, by 
letting a ladder, or light draw-bridge, fall on the roof 
from the top of the mania, they opened a passage to 
the terrace, and closed with the combatants hand to 
hand. They could not, however, thus approach the 
higher buildings, from which the Indian warriors threw 
down such heavy masses of stone and timber as dis- 
lodged the planks that covered the machines, or, 
thundering against their sides, shook the frail edifices 
to their foundations, threatening all within with indis- 
criminate ruin. Indeed, the success of the experiment 
was doubtful, when the intervention of a canal put a 
stop to their further progress. 

The Spaniards now found the assertion of their ene- 
mies too well confirmed. The bridge which traversed 
the opening had been demolished ; and, although the 
canals which intersected the city were, in general, of 
no great width or depth, the removal of the bridges 
not only impeded the movements of the general's 
clumsy machines, but effectually disconcerted those 
of his cavalry. Resolving to abandon the manias, he 
gave orders to fill up the chasm with stone, timber, 
and other rubbish drawn from the ruined buildings, 
and to make a new passage-way for the army. While 
this labor was going on, the Aztec slingers and archers 
on the other side of the opening kept up a galling 
discharge on the Christians, the more defenceless from 
the nature of their occupation. When the work was 
Vol. II. 28 


completed, and a safe passage secured, the Spanish 
cavaliers rode briskly against the enemy, who, unable 
to resist the shock of the steel-clad column, fell back 
with precipitation to where another canal afforded a 
similar strong position for defence. 16 

There were no less than seven of these canals inter- 
secting the great street of Tlacopan, 17 and at every one 
the same scene was renewed, the Mexicans making a 
gallant stand and inflicting some loss, at each, on 
their persevering antagonists. These operations con- 
sumed two days, when, after incredible toil, the Span- 
ish general had the satisfaction to find the line of 
communication completely re-established through the 
whole length of the avenue, and the principal bridges 
placed under strong detachments of infantry. At this 
juncture, when he had driven the foe before him to 
the farthest extremity of the street, where it touches on 
the causeway, he was informed that the Mexicans, dis- 
heartened by their reverses, desired to open a parley 
with him respecting the terms of an accommodation, 
and that their chiefs awaited his return for that purpose 
at the fortress. Overjoyed at the intelligence, he in- 
stantly rode back, attended by Alvarado, Sandoval, 
and about sixty of the cavaliers, to his quarters. 

The Mexicans proposed that he should release the 

16 Carta del Exercito, MS. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 
140. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. 

«7 Clavigero is mistaken in calling this the street of Iztapalapan. 
(Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 120.) It was not the street by which 
the Spaniards entered, but by which they finally left the city, and is 
correctly indicated by Lorenzana as that of Tlacopan, — or, rather, 
Tacuba, into which the Spaniards corrupted the name. See p. 140, 


3 2 7 

two priests captured in the temple, who might be the 
bearers of his terms and serve as agents for conducting 
the negotiation. They were accordingly sent with the 
requisite instructions to their countrymen. But they 
did not return. The whole was an artifice of the 
enemy, anxious to procure the liberation of their re- 
ligious leaders, one of whom was their teoteuctli, or 
high-priest, whose presence was indispensable in the 
probable event of a new coronation. 

Cortes, meanwhile, relying on the prospects of a 
speedy arrangement, was hastily taking some refresh- 
ment with his officers, after the fatigues of the day, 
when he received the alarming tidings that the enemy 
were in arms again, with more fury than ever; that 
they had overpowered the detachments posted under 
Alvarado at three of the bridges, and were busily occu- 
pied in demolishing them. Stung with shame at the 
facility with which he had been duped by his wily foe, 
or rather by his own sanguine hopes, Cortes threw 
himself into the saddle, and, followed by his brave 
companions, galloped back at full speed to the scene 
of action. The Mexicans recoiled before the impet- 
uous charge of the Spaniards. The bridges were again 
restored ; and Cortes and his chivalry rode down the 
whole extent of the great street, driving the enemy, like 
frightened deer, at the points of their lances. But, 
before he could return on his steps, he had the morti- 
fication to find that the indefatigable foe, gathering 
from the adjoining lanes and streets, had again closed 
on his infantry, who, worn down by fatigue, were 
unable to maintain their position at one of the prin- 
cipal bridges. New swarms of warriors now poured in 


on all sides, overwhelming the little band of Christian 
cavaliers with a storm of stones, darts, and arrows, 
which rattled like hail on their armor and on that of 
their well-barbed horses. Most of the missiles, indeed, 
glanced harmless from the good panoplies of steel, or 
thick quilted cotton, but, now and then, one better 
aimed penetrated the joints of the harness and stretched 
the rider on the ground. 

The confusion became greater around the broken 
bridge. Some of the horsemen were thrown into the 
canal, and their steeds floundered wildly about without 
a rider. Cortes himself, at this crisis, did more than 
any other to cover the retreat of his followers. While 
the bridge was repairing, he plunged boldly into the 
midst of the barbarians, striking down an enemy at 
every vault of his charger, cheering on his own men, 
and spreading terror through the ranks of his oppo- 
nents by the well-known sound of his battle-cry. 
Never did he display greater hardihood, or more freely 
expose his person, emulating, says an old chronicler, 
the feats of the Roman Codes. 18 In this way he stayed 
the tide of assailants till the last man had crossed 
the bridge, when, some of the planks having given 
way, he was compelled to leap a chasm of full six feet 

18 It is Oviedo who finds a parallel for his hero in the Roman war- 
rior ; the same, to quote the spirit-stirring legend of Macaulay, 
" who kept the bridge so well 
In the brave days of old." 

" Mui digno es Cortes que se compare este fecho suyo desta Jornada 
al de Oracio Cocles, que se toco de suso, porque con su esfuerzo e 
lanza sola dio tanto lugar, que los caballos pudieran pasar, e hizo des- 
embarazar la puente e paso, & pesar de los Enemigos, aunque con 
harto trabajo." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 


3 2 9 

in width, amidst a cloud of missiles, before he could 
place himself in safety. 19 A report ran through the 
army that the general was slain. It soon spread through 
the city, to the great joy of the Mexicans, and reached 
the fortress, where the besieged were thrown into no 
less consternation. But, happily for them, it was false. 
He, indeed, received two severe contusions on the 
knee, but in other respects remained uninjured. At 
no time, however, had he been in such extreme dan- 
ger ; and his escape, and that of his companions, were 
esteemed little less than a miracle. More than one 
grave historian refers the preservation of the Spaniards 
to the watchful care of their patron Apostle, St. James, 
who, in these desperate conflicts, was beheld careering 
on his milk-white steed at the head of the Christian 
squadrons, with his sword flashing lightning, while a 
lady robed in white — supposed to be the Virgin — was 
distinctly seen by his side, throwing dust in the eyes 
of the infidel ! The fact is attested both by Spaniards 
and Mexicans, — by the latter after their conversion to 
Christianity. Surely, never was there a time when the 
interposition of their tutelar saint was more strongly 
demanded. 20 

x 9 It was a fair leap, for a knight and horse in armor. But the 
general's own assertion to the emperor (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 
142) is fully confirmed by Oviedo, who tells us he had it from several 
who were present : " Y segun lo que yo he entendido de algunos 
que presentes se hallaron, demas de la resistencia de aquellos havia 
de la vna parte d la otra casi vn estado de saltar con el caballo sin le 
faltar muchas pedradas de diversas partes, e manos, e por ir el, e su 
caballo bien armados no los hirieron ; pero no dexo de quedar ator- 
mentado de los golpes que le dieVon." Hist, de las Ind., MS., ubi supra. 

80 Truly, " dignus vindice nodus" ! The intervention of the celestial 
chivalry on these occasions is testified in the most unqualified manner 



The coming of night dispersed the Indian battalions, 
which, vanishing like birds of ill omen from the field, 
left the well-contested pass in possession of the Span- 
iards. They returned, however, with none of the 
joyous feelings of conquerors to their citadel, but with 
slow step and dispirited, with weapons hacked, armor 
battered, and fainting under the loss of blood, fasting, 
and fatigue. In this condition they had yet to learn 
the tidings of a fresh misfortune in the death of 
Montezuma. 21 

by many respectable authorities. It is edifying to observe the combat 
going on in Oviedo's mind between the dictates of strong sense and 
superior learning, and those of the superstition of the age. It was 
an unequal combat, with odds sorely against the former, in the six- 
teenth century. I quote the passage, as characteristic of the times. 
" Afirman que se vido el Apostol Santiago a caballo peleando sobre 
vn caballo bianco en favor de los Christianos ; e decian los Indios que 
el caballo con los pies y manos e con la boca mataba muchos dellos, 
de forma, que en poco discurso de tiempo no parecio Indio, e repo- 
saron los Christianos lo restante de aquel dia. Ya se que los incredu- 
los 6 poco devotos diran, que mi ocupacion en esto destos miraglos, 
pues no los vi, es superflua, 6 perder tiempo novelando, y yo hablo, que 
esto e mas se puede creer; pues que los gentiles e sin fe, e Idola- 
tras escriben, que ovo grandes misterios e miraglos en sus tiempos, 6 
aquellos sabemos que eran causados e fechos por el Diablo, pues 
mas f&cil cosa es a Dios e d la inmaculata Virgen Nuestra Senora e al 
glorioso Apostol Santiago, e & los santos e amigos de Jesu Christo 
hacer esos miraglos, que de suso estan dichos, e otros maiores." Hist, 
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 

21 " Multi restiterunt lapidibus et iaculis confossi, fait et Cortesius 
grauiter percussus, pauci evaserunt incolumes, et hi adeo languidi, v+ 
neque lacertos erigere quirent. Postquam vero se in arcem rece- 
perunt, non commode satis conditas dapes, quibus reficerentur, inuene- 
runt, nee forte asperi maiicii panis bucellas, aut aquam potabilem, de 
vino aut carnibus sublata erat cura." (Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 
S, cap. 6.) See also, for the hard fighting described in the last pages, 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, 


The Indian monarch had rapidly declined, since 
he had received his injury, sinking, however, quite as 
much under the anguish of a wounded spirit as under 
disease. He continued in the same moody state of 
insensibility as that already described ; holding little 
communication with those around him, deaf to con- 
solation, obstinately rejecting all medical remedies as 
well as nourishment. Perceiving his end approach, 
some of the cavaliers present in the fortress, whom the 
kindness of his manners had personally attached to him, 
were anxious to save the soul of the dying prince from 
the sad doom of those who perish in the darkness of 
unbelief. They accordingly waited on him, with Father 
Olmedo at their head, and in the most earnest manner 
implored him to open his eyes to the error of his creed, 
and consent to be baptized. But Montezuma — what- 
ever may have been suggested to the contrary — seems 
never to have faltered in his hereditary faith, or to 
have contemplated becoming an apostate ; for surely 
he merits that name in its most odious application, who, 
whether Christian or pagan, renounces his religion 
without conviction of its falsehood. 22 Indeed, it was 
a too implicit reliance on its oracles which had 

ap. Lorenzana, pp. 140-142, — Carta del Exercito, MS., — Gonzalo de 
las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 26, — Herrera, Hist, general, 
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9, 10, — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. 

82 The sentiment is expressed with singular energy in the verses of 
Voltaire : 

" Mais renoncer aux dieux que Ton croit dans son coeur, 
C'est le crime d'un lache, et non pas une erreur; 
C'est trahir a la fois, sous un masque hypocrite, 
Et le dieu qu'on prefere, et le dieu que Ton quitte : 
C'est mentir au Ciel meme, a l'univers, a soi." 

Alzire, acte 5, sc. 5. 



led him to give such easy confidence to the Span- 
iards. His intercourse with them had, doubtless, not 
sharpened his desire to embrace their communion ; 
and the calamities of his country he might consider 
as sent by his gods to punish him for his hospitality 
to those who had desecrated and destroyed their 
shrines. 23 

When Father Olmedo, therefore, kneeling at his side, 
with the uplifted crucifix, affectionately besought him 
to embrace the sign of man's redemption, he coldly 
repulsed the priest, exclaiming, "I have but a few 
moments to live, and will not at this hour desert the 

*3 Camargo, the Tlascalan convert, says he was told by several of 
the Conquerors that Montezuma was baptized at his own desire in his 
last moments, and that Cortes and Alvarado stood sponsors on the 
occasion. " Muchos afirman de los conquistadores que yo conoci, 
que estando en el articulo de la muerte, pidio agua de batismo e que 
fue batizado y murio Cristiano, aunque en esto hay grandes dudas y 
diferentes paresceres ; mas como digo que de personas fidedignas con- 
quistadores de los primeros desta tierra de quien fuimos informados, 
supimos que murio batizado y Cristiano, e que fueron sus padrinos 
del batismo Fernando Cortes y Don Pedro de Alvarado." (Hist, de 
Tlascala, MS.) According to Gomara, the Mexican monarch desired 
to be baptized before the arrival of Narvaez. The ceremony was de- 
ferred till Easter, that it might be performed with greater effect. But 
in the hurry and bustle of the subsequent scenes it was forgotten, and 
he died without the stain of infidelity having been washed away from 
him. (Cronica, cap. 107.) Torquemada, not often a Pyrrhonist where 
the honor of the faith is concerned, rejects these tales as irreconcilable 
with the subsequent silence of Cortes himself, as well as of Alvarado, 
who would have been loud to proclaim an event so long in vain desired 
by them. (Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 70.) The criticism of the father 
is strongly supported by the fact that neither of the preceding accounts 
is corroborated by writers of any weight, while they are contradicted 
by several, by popular tradition, and, it may be added, by one 



faith of my fathers." 24 One thing, however, seemed 
to press heavily on Montezuma's mind. This was the 
fate of his children, especially of three daughters, 
whom he had by his two wives ; for there were certain 
rites of marriage which distinguished the lawful wife 
from the concubine. Calling Cortes to his bedside, 
he earnestly commended these children to his care, as 
"the most precious jewels that he could leave him." 
He besought the general to interest his master, the 
emperor, in their behalf, and tosee that they should 
not be left destitute, but be allowed some portion of 
their rightful inheritance. "Your lord will do this," 
he concluded, "if it were only for the friendly offices 
I have rendered the Spaniards, and for the love I have 
shown them, — though it has brought me to this con- 
dition ! But for this I bear them no ill will." 25 Such, 

=4 " Respondio, Que por la media hora que le quedaba de vida, no 
se queria apartar de la religion de sus Padres." (Herrera, Hisl. 
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.) " Ya he dicho," says Diaz, " la tris- 
teza que todos nosotros huvimos por ello, y aun al Frayle de la 
Merced, que siempre estaua con el, y no le pudo atraer a que se 
bolviesse Christiano." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 127. 

2 5 Aungueno le pesaba dello ; literally, " although he did not repent 
of it." But this would be rather too much for human nature to 
assert ; and it is probable the language of the Indian prince under- 
went some little change as it was sifted through the interpretation of 
Marina. The Spanish reader will find the original conversation, as 
reported by Cortes himself, in the remarkable document in the Appen- 
dix, Part 2, No. 12. The general adds that he faithfully complied with 
Montezuma's request, receiving his daughters, after the Conquest, into 
his own family, where, agreeably to their royal father s desire, they 
were baptized, and instructed in the doctrines and usages of the Chris- 
tian faith. They were afterwards married to Castilian hidalgos, and 
handsome dowries were assigned them by the government. See note 
36 of this chapter. 



according to Cortes himself, were the words of the 
dying monarch. Not long after, on the 30th of June, 
1520, 26 he expired in the arms of some of his own 
nobles, who still remained faithful in their attendance 
on his person. "Thus," exclaims a native historian, 
one of his enemies, a Tlascalan, "thus died the unfor- 
tunate Montezuma, who had swayed the sceptre with 
such consummate policy and wisdom, and who was 
held in greater reverence and awe than any other prince 
of his lineage, or any, indeed, that ever sat on a throne 
in this Western World. With him may be said to have 
terminated the royal line of the Aztecs, and the glory 
to have passed away from the empire, which under him 
had reached the zenith of its prosperity." 27 "The 
tidings of his death," says the old Castilian chroni- 
cler, Diaz, "were received with real grief by every 
cavalier and soldier in the army who had had access to 
his person ; for we all loved him as a father, — and no 
wonder, seeing how good he was." 28 This simple but 

35 I adopt Clavigero's chronology, which cannot be far from truth 
(Stor, del Messico, torn. iii. p. 131.) And yet there are reasons for 
supposing he must have died at least a day sooner. 

27 " De suerte que le tiraron una pedrada con una honda y le dieron 
en la cabeza, de que vino a morir el desdichado Rev, habiendo gober- 
nado este nuevo Mundo con la mayor prudencia y gobiemo que se 
puede imaginar, siendo el mas tenido y reverenciado y adorado Senor 
que en el mundo ha habido, y en su linaje, como es cosa publica y 
notoria en toda la maquina deste Nuevo Mundo, donde con la muerte 
de tan gran Senor se acabiron los Reyes Culhu-aques Mejicanos, y 
todo su poder y mando, estando en la mayor felicidad de su monar- 
quia ; y ansi no hay de que fiar en las cosas desta vida sino en solo 
Dios." Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 

28 ■'■ Y Cortes Uoro por el, y todos nuestros Capitanes, y soldados: 
e hombres huvo entre nosotros de los que le conociamos, y trata- 



emphatic testimony to his desert, at such a time, is in 
itself the best refutation of the suspicions occasionally 
entertained of his fidelity to the Christians. 29 

It is not easy to depict the portrait of Montezuma in 
its true colors, since it has been exhibited to us under 
two aspects, of the most opposite and contradictory 
character. In the accounts gathered of him by the 

uamos, que tan llorado fue, como si fuera nuestro padre, y no nos 
hemos de maravillar dello, viendo que tan bueno era." Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 126. 

=9 " He loved the Christians," says Herrera, " as well as could be 
judged from appearances." (Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.) 
" They say," remarks the general's chaplain, " that Montezuma, though 
often urged to it, never consented to the death of a Spaniard, nor to 
the injury of Cortes, whom he loved exceedingly. But there are those 
who dispute this." (Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107.) Don Thoan Cano 
assured Oviedo that during all the troubles of the Spaniards with the 
Mexicans, both in the absence of Cortes and after his return, the em- 
peror did his best to supply the camp with provisions. (See Appendix, 
Part 2, No. 11.) And, finally, Cortes himself, in an instrument already 
referred to, dated six years after Montezuma's death, bears emphatic 
testimony to the good will he had shown the Spaniards, and particularly 
acquits him of any share in the late rising, which, says the Conqueror, 
" I had trusted to suppress through his assistance." See Appendix, 
Part 2, No. 12. — The Spanish historians, in general, — notwithstanding 
an occasional intimation of a doubt as to his good faith towards their 
countrymen, — make honorable mention of the many excellent quali- 
ties of the Indian prince. Solis, however, the most eminent of all, 
dismisses the account of his death with the remark that " his last 
hours were spent in breathing vengeance and maledictions against his 
people ; until he surrendered up to Satan — with whom he had frequent 
communication in his lifetime — the eternal possession of his soul !" 
(Conquista de Mexico, lib. 4, cap. 15.) Fortunately, the historiog- 
rapher of the Indians could know as little of Montezuma's fate in 
the next world as he appears to have known of it in this. Was it 
bigotry, or a desire to set his own hero's character in a brighter light 
which led him thus unworthily to darken that of his Indian rival? 

S3 6 


Spaniards on coming into the country, he was uni- 
formly represented as bold and warlike, unscrupulous 
as to the means of gratifying his ambition, hollow and 
perfidious, the terror of his foes, with a haughty bear- 
ing which made him feared even by his own people. 
They found him, on the contrary, not merely affable 
and gracious, but disposed to waive all the advantages 
of his own position, and to place them on a footing 
with himself; making their wishes his law; gentle even 
to effeminacy in his deportment, and constant in his 
friendship while his whole nation was in arms against 
them. Yet these traits, so contradictory, were truly 
enough drawn. They are to be explained by the ex- 
traordinary circumstances of his position. 

When Montezuma ascended the throne, he was 
scarcely twenty-three years of age. Young, and am- 
bitious of extending his empire, he was continually 
engaged in war, and is said to have been present him- 
self in nine pitched battles. 30 He was greatly renowned 
for his martial prowess, for he belonged to the Qua- 
chictin, the highest military order of his nation, and 
one into which but few even of its sovereigns had been 
admitted. 31 In later life, he preferred intrigue to vio- 
lence, as more consonant to his character and priestly 
education. In this he was as great an adept as any 
prince of his time, and, by arts not very honorable to 
himself, succeeded in filching away much of the terri- 

3° " Dicen que vencio nueve Batallas, i otros nueve Campos, en 
desafio vno a vno." Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. 

31 One other only of his predecessors, Tizoc, is shown by the Aztec 
paintings to have belonged to this knightly order, according to Clavi- 
gero. Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. p. 140. 



tory of his royal kinsman of Tezcuco. Severe in the 
administration of justice, he made important reforms 
in the arrangement of the tribunals. He introduced 
other innovations in the royal household, creating new 
offices, introducing a lavish magnificence and forms of 
courtly etiquette unknown to his ruder predecessors. 
He was, in short, most attentive to all that concerned 
the exterior and pomp of royalty. 32 Stately and de- 
corous, he was careful of his own dignity, and might 
be said to be as great an " actor of majesty" among the 
barbarian potentates of the New World as Louis the 
Fourteenth was among the polished princes of Europe. 
He was deeply tinctured, moreover, with that spirit 
of bigotry which threw such a shade over the latter 
days of the French monarch. He received the Span- 
iards as the beings predicted by his oracles. The 
anxious dread with which he had evaded their proffered 
visit was founded on the same feelings which led him 
so blindly to resign himself to them on their approach. 
He felt himself rebuked by their superior genius. He 
at once conceded all that they demanded, — his treas- 
ures, his power, even his person. For their sake, he 
forsook his wonted occupations, his pleasures, his most 
familiar habits. He might be said to forego his nature, 
and, as his subjects asserted, to change his sex and be- 
come a woman. If we cannot refuse our contempt foi 
the pusillanimity of the Aztec monarch, it should be 

3= " Era mas cauteloso, y ardidoso, que valeroso. En las Armas, y 
modo de su govierno, fue muy justiciero ; en las cosas tocantes d ser 
estimado y tenido en su Dignidad y Majestad Real de condicion muy 
severo, aunque cuerdo y gracioso." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., 
cap. 88. 

Vol. II. — p 29 


mitigated by the consideration that his pusillanimity 
sprung from his superstition, and that superstition in 
the savage is the substitute for religious principle in the 
civilized man. 

It is not easy to contemplate the fate of Montezuma 
without feelings of the strongest compassion ; — to see 
him thus borne along the tide of events beyond his 
power to avert or control ; to see him, like some stately 
tree, the pride of his own Indian forests, towering aloft 
in the pomp and majesty of its branches, by its very 
eminence a mark for the thunderbolt, the first victim 
of the tempest which was to sweep over its native hills ! 
When the wise king of Tezcuco addressed his royal 
relative at his coronation, he exclaimed, "Happy the 
empire which is now in the meridian of its prosperity, 
for the sceptre is given to one whom the Almighty has 
in his keeping ; and the nations shall hold him in 
reverence !" 33 Alas ! the subject of this auspicious in- 
vocation lived to see his empire melt away like the 
winter's wreath ; to see a strange race drop, as it were, 
from the clouds on his land; to find himself a prisoner 
in the palace of his fathers, the companion of those 
who were the enemies of his gods and his people ; to 
be insulted, reviled, trodden in the dust, by the meanest 
of his subjects, by those who, a few months previous, 
had trembled at his glance; drawing his last breath 
in the halls of the stranger, — a lonely outcast in the 
heart of his own capital ! He was the sad victim 
of destiny, — a destiny as dark and irresistible in its 

33 The whole address is given by Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib 
4, cap. 68. 



march as that which broods over the mythic legends of 
antiquity ! 3+ 

Montezuma, at the time of his death, was about forty- 
one years old, of which he reigned eighteen. His per- 
son and manners have been already described. He 
left a numerous progeny by his various wives, most of 
whom, having lost their consideration after the Con- 
quest, fell into obscurity, as they mingled with the mass 
of the Indian population. 35 Two of them, however, a 
son and a daughter, who embraced Christianity, be- 
came the founders of noble houses in Spain. 36 The 

34 " Tex v V 9 avaynric aod-evEOTepa fxanpu. 
T«'c ovv uvayKTjc earlv olaKoarpufoQ ; 
Molpai Tpifioptj>oc, fiV7f/uovec t* 'Eptwvec. 
Tovtuv up' Zevg kariv uafteveoTepcx; ; 
Ovkovv av kutyvyoi ye ttjv 7reTrpufj.h>riv." 

JEsch\-l., Prometh., v. 522-526. 

35 Senor de Calderon, the late Spanish minister at Mexico, informs 
me that he has more than once passed by an Indian dwelling where 
the Indians in his suite made a reverence, saying it was occupied by a 
descendant of Montezuma. 

3 6 This son, baptized by the name of Pedro, was descended from 
one of the royal concubines. Montezuma had two lawful wives. By 
the first of these, named Tecalco, he had a son, who perished in the 
flight from Mexico ; and a daughter named Tecuichpo, who embraced 
Christianity and received the name of Isabella. She was married, 
when very young, to her cousin Guatemozin, and lived long enough 
after his death to give her hand to four Castilians, all of honorable 
family. From two of these, Don Thoan Cano and Don Juan Andrada, 
descended the illustrious families of the Cano and Andrada Monte- 
zuma. From the last came the counts of Miravalle noticed by Hum- 
boldt (Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 73, note). See Alaman, Disertaciones 
historicas, torn. ii. p. 325. — Montezuma, by his second wife, the princess 
Acatlan, left two daughters, named, after their conversion, Maria and 
Leonor. The former died without issue. Dona Leonor married 
a Spanish cavalier, Cristoval de Valderrama, from whom descended 



government, willing to show its gratitude for the large 
extent of empire derived from their ancestor, conferred 
on them ample estates and important hereditary honors; 
and the counts of Montezuma and Tula, intermarry- 
ing with the best blood of Castile, intimated by their 
names and titles their illustrious descent from the royal 
dynasty of Mexico. 37 

the family of the Sotelos de Montezuma. — The royal genealogy is 
minutely exhibited in a Memorial setting forth the claims of Mon- 
tezuma's grandsons to certain property in right of their respective 
mothers. The document, which is without date, is among the MSS. 
of Munoz. 

37 It is interesting to know that a descendant of the Aztec emperor, 
Don Jose Sarmiento Valladares, count of Montezuma, ruled as 
viceroy, from 1697 to 1701, over the dominions of his barbaric ances- 
tors. (Humboldt, Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 93, note.)* Solis speaks 
of this noble house, grandees of Spain, who intermingled their blood 
with that of the Guzmans and the Mendozas. Clavigero has traced 
their descent from the emperor's son Iohualicahua, or Don Pedro 
Montezuma (as he was called after his baptism), down to the close of 
the eighteenth century. (See Solis, Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 15. — Clavi- 
gero, Stor. del Messico, torn. i. p. 302, torn. iii. p. 132.) The title of 
count was bestowed on the head of the family by Philip the Second, 
in 1556. In 1765, under Charles the Third, the count of Montezuma 
was made a grandee of Spain, and he was in receipt of a yearly pen- 
sion of 40,000 pesos. (Alaman, Disertaciones historicas, torn. i. p. 159.) 
The last of the line, of whom I have been able to obtain any intelli- 
gence, died not long since in this country. He was very wealthy, 
having large estates in Spain, — but was not, as it appears, very wise. 
When seventy years old or more, he passed over to Mexico, in the 
vain hope that the nation, in deference to his descent, might place 

[* Sefior Alaman, in a note on this passage, says it was not the 
viceroy, but his wife, Dona Maria Geronima Montezuma, who was 
a descendant of the Aztec emperor. She was third countess of 
Montezuma in her own right, her husband's title being duke of Atlixco. 



Montezuma's death was a misfortune to the Span- 
iards. While he lived, they had a precious pledge in 
their hands, which, in extremity, they might possibly 
have turned to account. Now the last link was snapped 
which connected them with the natives of the country. 
But, independently of interested feelings, Cortes and 
his officers were much affected by his death, from per- 
sonal considerations, and, when they gazed on the cold 
remains of the ill-starred monarch, they may have felt 
a natural compunction, as they contrasted his late 
flourishing condition with that to which his friendship 
for them had reduced him. 

The Spanish commander showed all respect for his 
memory. His body, arrayed in its royal robes, was 
laid decently on a bier, and borne on the shoulders of 
his nobles to his subjects in the city. What honors, 
if any, indeed, were paid to his remains, is uncertain. 
A sound of wailing, distinctly heard in the western quar- 
ters of the capital, was interpreted by the Spaniards 
into the moans of a funeral procession, as it bore the 
body to be laid among those of his ancestors, under 
the princely shades of Chapoltepec. 38 Others state 
that it was removed to a burial-place in the city named 
Copalco, and there burned with the usual solemnities 

him on the throne of his Indian ancestors, so recently occupied by the 
presumptuous Iturbide. But the modern Mexicans, with all their 
detestation of the old Spaniards, showed no respect for the royal blood 
of the Aztecs. The unfortunate nobleman retired to New Orleans, 
where he soon after put an end to his existence by blowing out his 
brains, — not for ambition, however, if report be true, but disappointed 
love I 

38 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 
10, cap. 10. 




and signs of lamentation by his chiefs, but not without 
some unworthy insults from the Mexican populace. 39 
Whatever be the fact, the people, occupied with the 
stirring scenes in which they were engaged, were prob- 
ably not long mindful of the monarch who had taken 
no share in their late patriotic movements. Nor is it 
strange that the very memory of his sepulchre should 
be effaced in the terrible catastrophe which afterwards 
overwhelmed the capital and swept away every land- 
mark from its surface. 

39 Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 7. 




There was no longer any question as to the expe- 
diency of evacuating the capital. The only doubt was 
as to the time of doing so, and the route. The Span- 
ish commander called a council of officers to deliberate 
on these matters. It was his purpose to retreat on 
Tlascala, and in that capital to decide, according to 
circumstances, on his future operations. After some 
discussion, they agreed on the causeway of Tlacopan 
as the avenue by which to leave the city. It would, 
indeed, take them back by a circuitous route, consid- 
erably longer than either of those by which they had 
approached the capital. But, for that reason, it would 
be less likely to be guarded, as least suspected ; and 
the causeway itself, being shorter than either of the 
other entrances, would sooner place the army in 
comparative security on the main land. 

There was some difference of opinion in respect to 
the hour of departure. The daytime, it was argued 
by some, would be preferable, since it would enable 
them to see the nature and extent of their danger and 




to provide against it. Darkness would be much more 
likely to embarrass their own movements than those 
of the enemy, who were familiar with the ground. A 
thousand impediments would occur in the night, which 
might prevent their acting in concert, or obeying, or 
even ascertaining, the orders of the commander. But, 
on the other hand, it was urged that the night pre- 
sented many obvious advantages in dealing with a foe 
who rarely carried his hostilities beyond the day. The 
late active operations of the Spaniards had thrown the 
Mexicans off their guard, and it was improbable they 
would anticipate so speedy a departure of their ene- 
mies. With celerity and caution they might succeed, 
therefore, in making their escape from the town, pos- 
sibly over the causeway, before their retreat should be 
discovered ; and, could they once get beyond that pass 
of peril, they felt little apprehension for the rest. 

These views were fortified, it is said, by the counsels 
of a soldier named Botello, who professed the mys- 
terious science of judicial astrology. He had gained 
credit with the army by some predictions which had 
been verified by the events ; those lucky hits which 
make chance pass for calculation with the credulous 
multitude. 1 This man recommended to his country- 
men by all means to evacuate the place in the night, as 
the hour most propitious to them, although he should 
perish in it. The event proved the astrologer better 

1 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — The astrologer 
predicted that Cortes would be reduced to the greatest extremity of 
distress, and afterwards come to great honor and fortune. (Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128.) He showed himself as cun- 
ning in his art as the West Indian sibyl who foretold the destiny of 
the unfortunate Josephine. 


acquainted with his own horoscope than with that of 
others. 2 

It is possible Botello's predictions had some weight 
in determining the opinion of Cortes. Superstition 
was the feature of the age, and the Spanish general, as 
we have seen, had a full measure of its bigotry. Sea- 
sons of gloom, moreover, dispose the mind to a ready 
acquiescence in the marvellous. It is, however, quite 
as probable that he made use of the astrologer's opinion, 
finding it coincided with his own, to influence that of 
his men and inspire them with higher confidence. At 
all events, it was decided to abandon the city that very 

The general's first care was to provide for the safe 
transportation of the treasure. Many of the common 
soldiers had converted their share of the prize, as we 
have seen, into gold chains, collars, or other orna- 
ments, which they easily carried about their persons. 
But the royal fifth, together with that of Cortes him- 
self, and much of the rich booty of the principal cava- 
liers, had been converted into bars and wedges of solid 
gold, and deposited in one of the strong apartments of 
the palace. Cortes delivered the share belonging to 
the crown to the royal officers, assigning them one of 
the strongest horses, and a guard of Castilian soldiers, 
to transport it. 3 Still, much of the treasure, belonging 

3 " Pues al astrologo Botello, no le aprouecho su astrologia, que 
tambien alii murio." Bernal Diaz, ubi supra. 

3 The disposition of the treasure has been stated with some dis- 
crepancy, though all agree as to its ultimate fate. The general himself 
did not escape the imputation of negligence, and even peculation, 
most unfounded, from his enemies. The account in the text is sub- 
stantiated by the evidence, under oath, of the most respectable names 


both to the crown and to individuals, was necessarily 
abandoned, from the want of adequate means of con- 
veyance. The metal lay scattered in shining heaps 
along the floor, exciting the cupidity of the soldiers. 
"Take what you will of it," said Cortes to his men. 
"Better you should have it, than these Mexican 
hounds. 4 But be careful not to overload yourselves. 
He travels safest in the dark night who travels lightest. ' ' 
His own more wary followers took heed to his counsel, 
helping themselves to a few articles of least bulk, 
though, it might be, of greatest value. 5 But the troops 
of Narvaez, pining for riches of which they had heard 
so much and hitherto seen so little, showed no such 
discretion. To them it seemed as if the very mines 
of Mexico were turned up before them, and, rushing 
on the treacherous spoil, they greedily loaded them- 

in the expedition, as given in the instrument already more than once 
referred to. " Hizo sacar el oro e joyas de sus Altezas e le dio e en- 
trego i. los otros oficiales Alcaldes e Regidores, e les dixo A la rason 
que asi se lo entrego, que todos viesen el mejor modo e manera que 
habia para lo poder salvar, que el alii estaba para por su parte hacer 
lo que fuese posible e poner su persona a qualquier trance e riesgo 
que sobre lo salvar le viniese. ... El qual les dio para ello una muy 
buena yegua, e quatro 6 cinco Espanoles de mucha confianza, a quien 
se encargo la dha yegua cargado con el otro oro." Probanza a pedi- 
mento de Juan de Lexalde. 

4 " Desde aqui se lo doi, como se ha de quedar aqui perdido entre 
estos perros." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 

5 Captain Diaz tells us that he contented himself with four chalchi- 
vitl, — the green stone so much prized by the natives, — which he cun- 
ningly picked out of the royal coffers before Cortes' majordomo had 
time to secure them. The prize proved of great service, by supply- 
ing him the means of obtaining food and medicine when in great 
extremity, afterwards, from the people of the country. Ibid., loc. cit. 


selves with as much of it, not merely as they could 
accommodate about their persons, but as they could 
stow away in wallets, boxes, or any other means of 
conveyance at their disposal. 6 

Cortes next arranged the order of march. The van, 
composed of two hundred Spanish foot, he placed 
under the command of the valiant Gonzalo de Sando- 
val, supported by Diego de Ordaz, Francisco de Lujo, 
and about twenty other cavaliers. The rear-guard, 
constituting the strength of the infantry, was intrusted 
to Pedro de Alvarado and Velasquez de Leon. The 
general himself took charge of the "battle," or centre, 
in which went the baggage, some of the heavy guns, 
most of which, however, remained in the rear, the 
treasure, and the prisoners. These consisted of a son 
and two daughters of Montezuma, Cacama, the deposed 
lord of Tezcuco, and several other nobles, whom Cortes 
retained as important pledges in his future negotiations 
with the enemy. The Tlascalans were distributed 
pretty equally among the three divisions ; and Cortes 
had under his immediate command a hundred picked 
soldiers, his own veterans most attached to his service, 
who, with Cristoval de Olid, Francisco de Morla, 
Alonso de Avila, and two or three other cavaliers, 
formed a select corps, to act wherever occasion might 

The general had already superintended the construc- 
tion of a portable bridge to be laid over the open 
canals in the causeway. This was given in charge to 
an officer named Magarino, with forty soldiers under 
his orders, all pledged to defend the passage to the last 

6 Oviedo, Hist, de ias Ind., MS., ubi supra. 


extremity. The bridge was to be taken up when the 
entire army had crossed one of the breaches, and trans- 
ported to the next. There were three of these open- 
ings in the causeway, and most fortunate would it have 
been for the expedition if the foresight of the com- 
mander had provided the same number of bridges. 
But the labor would have been great, and time was 
short. 7 

At midnight the troops were under arms, in readiness 
for the march. Mass was performed by Father Olmedo, 
who invoked the protection of the Almighty through 
the awful perils of the night. The gates were thrown 
open, and on the first of July, 1520, the Spaniards for 
the last time sallied forth from the walls of the ancient 
fortress, the scene of so much suffering and such in- 
domitable courage. 8 

The night was cloudy, and a drizzling rain, which 
fell without intermission, added to the obscurity. The 
great square before the palace was deserted, as, indeed, 
it had been since the fall of Montezuma. Steadily, 

7 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana. 
p. 143. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 47. 

8 There is some difficulty in adjusting the precise date of their de- 
parture, as, indeed, of most events in the Conquest ; attention to chro- 
nology being deemed somewhat superfluous by the old chroniclers. 
Ixtlilxochitl, Gomara, and others fix the date at July ioth. But this 
is wholly contrary to the letter of Cortes, which states that the army 
reached Tlascala on the eighth of July, not the tenth, as Clavigero mis- 
quotes him (Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. pp. 135, 136, nota); and from 
the general's accurate account of their progress each day, it appears 
that they left the capital on the last night of June, or rather the morn- 
ing of July 1st. It was the night, he also adds, following the affair 
of the bridges in the city. Comp. Rel. Seg., ap, Lorenzana, pp. 142 



and as noiselessly as possible, the Spaniards held their 
way along the great street of Tlacopan, which so lately 
had resounded with the tumult of battle. All was now 
hushed in silence ; and they were only reminded of the 
past by the occasional presence of some solitary corpse, 
or a dark heap of the slain, which too plainly told 
where the strife had been hottest. As they passed 
along the lanes and alleys which opened into the great 
street, or looked down the canals, whose polished sur- 
face gleamed with a sort of ebon lustre through the 
obscurity of night, they easily fancied that they dis- 
cerned the shadowy forms of their foe lurking in am- 
bush and ready to spring on them. But it was only 
fancy; and the city slept undisturbed even by the 
prolonged echoes of the tramp of the horses and the 
hoarse rumbling of the artillery and baggage-trains. 
At length, a lighter space beyond the dusky line of 
buildings showed the van of the army that it was 
emerging on the open causeway. They might well 
have congratulated themselves on having thus escaped 
the dangers of an assault in the city itself, and that a 
brief time would place them in comparative safety on 
the opposite shore. But the Mexicans were not all 

As the Spaniards drew near the spot where the street 
opened on the causeway, and were preparing to lay the 
portable bridge across the uncovered breach, which now 
met their eyes, several Indian sentinels, who had been 
stationed at this, as at the other approaches to the city, 
took the alarm, and fled, rousing their countrymen by 
their cries. The priests, keeping their night-watch on 
the summit of the teocallis, instantly caught the tidings 
Vol. II. 30 


and sounded their shells, while the huge drum in the 
desolate temple of the war-god sent forth those solemn 
tones, which, heard only in seasons of calamity, vibrated 
through every corner of the capital. The Spaniards 
saw that no time was to be lost. The bridge was 
brought forward and fitted with all possible expedi- 
tion. Sandoval was the first to try its strength, and, 
riding across, was followed by his little body of chiv- 
alry, his infantry, and Tlascalan allies, who formed the 
first division of the army. Then came Cortes and his 
squadrons, with the baggage, ammunition-wagons, and 
a part of the artillery. But before they had time to 
defile across the narrow passage, a gathering sound 
was heard, like that of a mighty forest agitated by the 
winds. It grew louder and louder, while on the dark 
waters of the lake was heard a plashing noise, as of 
many oars. Then came a few stones and arrows strik- 
ing at random among the hurrying troops. They fell 
every moment faster and more furious, till they thick- 
ened into a terrible tempest, while the very heavens 
were rent with the yells and war-cries of myriads of 
combatants, who seemed all at once to be swarming 
over land and lake ! 

The Spaniards pushed steadily on through this 
arrowy sleet, though the barbarians, dashing their 
canoes against the sides of the causeway, clambered 
up and broke in upon their ranks. But the Christians, 
anxious only to make their escape, declined all combat 
except for self-preservation. The cavaliers, spurring 
forward their steeds, shook off their assailants and rode 
over their prostrate bodies, while the men on foot 
with their good swords or the butts of their pieces 


35 1 

drove them headlong again down the sides of the 

But the advance of several thousand men, marching, 
probably, on a front of not more than fifteen or twenty 
abreast, necessarily required much time, and the lead- 
ing files had already reached the second breach in the 
causeway before those in the rear had entirely traversed 
the first. 9 Here they halted, as they had no means 
of effecting a passage, smarting all the while under 
unintermitting volleys from the enemy, who were clus- 
tered thick on the waters around this second opening. 
Sorely distressed, the van-guard sent repeated messages 
to the rear to demand the portable bridge. At length 
the last of the army had crossed, and Magarino and 
his sturdy followers endeavored to raise the ponderous 
framework. But it stuck fast in the sides of the dike. 
In vain they strained every nerve. The weight of so 
many men and horses, and above all of the heavy artil- 
lery, had wedged the timbers so firmly in the stones 
and earth that it was beyond their power tc dislodge 
them. Still they labored amidst a torrent of missiles, 
until, many of them slain, and all wounded, they were 
obliged to abandon the attempt. 

The tidings soon spread from man to man, and no 
sooner was their dreadful import comprehended than a 
cry of despair arose, which for a moment drowned all 
the noise of conflict. All means of retreat were cut 

9 [This second breach, says Ramirez, "the scene of the rout and 
slaughter of the Spaniards, was in front of San Hipolito, where a chapel 
was built, to commemorate the event, and dedicated to the Martyrs, — 
though assuredly none of Ihose who had fallen there had any claim to 
the crown of martyrdom ' Notas y Esclarecimientos, p. 104.] 



off. Scarcely hope was left. The only hope was in 
such desperate exertions as each could make for him- 
self. Order and subordination were at an end. Intense 
danger produced intense selfishness. Each thought 
only of his own life. Pressing forward, he trampled 
down the weak and the wounded, heedless whether it 
were friend or foe. The leading files, urged on by the 
rear, were crowded on the brink of the gulf. San- 
doval, Ordaz, and the othei cavaliers dashed into the 
water. Some succeeded in swimming their horses 
across. Others failed, and some, who reached the 
opposite bank, being overturned in the ascent, rolled 
headlong with their steeds into the lake. The infantry 
followed pellmell, heaped promiscuously on one an- 
other, frequently pierced by the shafts or struck down 
by the war-clubs of the Aztecs ; while many an unfor- 
tunate victim was dragged half stunned on board their 
canoes, to be reserved for a protracted but more dread- 
ful death. 10 

The carnage raged fearfully along the length of the 
causeway. Its shadowy bulk presented a mark of suf- 
ficient distinctness for the enemy's missiles, which 
often prostrated their own countrymen in the blind 
fury of the tempest. Those nearest the dike, running 
their canoes alongside, with a force that shattered them 
to pieces, leaped on the land, and grappled with the 
Christians, until both came rolling down the side of 

10 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 143. — Camargo, Hist, de 
Tlascala, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13,47. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva- 
Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24. — Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6. 
— Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 4. — Probanza en la Villa 
Segura, MS. 



the causeway together. But the Aztec fell among his 
friends, while his antagonist was borne away in triumph 
to the sacrifice. The struggle was long and deadly. 
The Mexicans were recognized by their white cotton 
tunics, which showed faint through the darkness. 
Above the combatants rose a wild and discordant 
clamor, in which horrid shouts of vengeance were 
mingled with groans of agony, with invocations of the 
saints and the blessed Virgin, and with the screams of 
women ;" for there were several women, both natives 
and Spaniards, who had accompanied the Christian 
camp. Among these, one named Maria de Estrada is 
particularly noticed for the courage she displayed, bat- 
tling with broadsword and target like the stanchest of 
the warriors. 12 

The opening in the causeway, meanwhile, was filled 
up with the wreck of matter which had been forced 
into it, ammunition-wagons, heavy guns, bales of rich 
stuffs scattered over the waters, chests of solid ingots, 
and bodies of men and horses, till over this dismal 
ruin a passage Avas gradually formed, by which those in 
the rear were enabled to clamber to the other side. 13 

11 " Pues la grita, y Uoros, y lastimas q dezia demadando socorro : 
Ayudadme, q me ahogo, otros : Socorredme, q me mata, otros de- 
madando ayuda a N. Senora Santa Maria, y a Seiior Santiago." Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 

« " In this combat Maria de Estrada, oblivious of her sex, showed 
herself most valorous, and armed with sword and shield did marvel- 
lous deeds, rushing into the midst of the enemy with a courage and 
spirit equal to that of the bravest of men. . . . This lady became the 
wife of Pedro Sanchez Farfan, and the village of Tetela was granted 
to them en encomie?ida." Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 

'3 Camargo, His*, de Tlascala, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 




Cortes, it is said, found a place that was fordable, 
where, halting, with the water up to his saddle-girths, 
he endeavored to check the confusion, and lead his 
followers by a safer path to the opposite bank. But 
his voice was lost in the wild uproar, and finally, 
hurrying on with the tide, he pressed forwards with a 
few trusty cavaliers, who remained near his person, to 
the van ; but not before he had seen his favorite page, 
Juan de Salazar, struck down, a corpse, by his side. 
Here he found Sandoval and his companions, halting 
before the third and last breach, endeavoring to cheer 
on their followers to surmount it. But their resolution 
faltered. It was wide and deep ; though the passage 
was not so closely beset by the enemy as the preceding 
ones. The cavaliers again set the example by plung- 
ing into the water. Horse and foot followed as they 
could, some swimming, others with dying grasp cling- 
ing to the manes and tails of the struggling animals. 
Those fared best, as the general had predicted, who 
travelled lightest ; and many were the unfortunate 
wretches who, weighed down by the fatal gold which 
they loved so well, were buried with it in the salt 
floods of the lake. 14 Cortes, with his gallant comrades, 

quista, cap. 128. — " Por la gran priesa que daban de ambas partes de 
el camino, comenzaron i. caer en aquel foso, y cayeron juntos, que de 
Espanoles, que de Indios y de caballos, y de cargas, el foso se hincho 
hasta arriba, cayendo los unos sobre los otros, y los otros sobre los 
otros, de manera que todos los del bagage quedaron alii ahogados, y 
los de la retaguardia pasaron sobre los muertos." Sahagun, Hist, de 
Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24. 

*4 " E los que liabian ido con Narvaez arrojaronse en la sala, e car- 
gdronse de aquel oro e plata quanto pudieron ; pero los menos lo 
goz&ron, porque la carga no los dexaba pelear, e los Indios los toma- 



Olid, Morla, Sandoval, and some few others, still kept 
in the advance, leading his broken remnant off the 
fatal causeway. The din of battle lessened in the dis- 
tance ; when the rumor reached them that the rear- 
guard would be wholly overwhelmed without speedy 
relief. It seemed almost an act of desperation ; but 
the generous hearts of the Spanish cavaliers did not 
stop to calculate danger when the cry for succor reached 
them. Turning their horses' bridles, they galloped 
back to the theatre of action, worked their way through 
the press, swam the canal, and placed themselves in 
the thick of the melee on the opposite bank. 15 

The first gray of the morning was now coming over 
the waters. It showed the hideous confusion of the 
scene which had been shrouded in the obscurity of 
night. The dark masses of combatants, stretching 
along the dike, were seen struggling for mastery, until 
the very causeway on which they stood appeared to 
tremble, and reel to and fro, as if shaken by an earth- 
quake ; while the bosom of the lake, as far as the eye 
could reach, was darkened by canoes crowded with war- 
riors, whose spears and bludgeons, armed with blades 
of " volcanic glass," gleamed in the morning light. 

The cavaliers found Alvarado unhorsed, and defend- 
ing himself with a poor handful of followers against an 
overwhelming tide of the enemy. His good steed, 
which had borne him through many a hard fight, had 

ban vivos cargados ; e £ otros llevaban arrastrando, e & otros mataban 
alii ; E asi no se salvaron sino los desocupados e que iban en la delan- 
tera." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 

'5 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. II. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 128. 


fallen under him. 16 He was himself wounded in seve- 
ral places, and was striving in vain to rally his scattered 
column, which was driven to the verge of the canal by 
the fury of the enemy, then in possession of the whole 
rear of the causeway, where they were reinforced every 
hour by fresh combatants from the city. The artillery 
in the earlier part of the engagement had not been 
idle, and its iron shower, sweeping along the dike, had 
mowed down the assailants by hundreds. But nothing 
could resist their impetuosity. The front ranks, pushed 
on by those behind, were at length forced up to the 
pieces, and, pouring over them like a torrent, over- 
threw men and guns in one general ruin. The reso- 
lute charge of the Spanish cavaliers, who had now 
arrived, created a temporary check, and gave time for 
their countrymen to make a feeble rally. But they 
were speedily borne down by the returning flood. 
Cortes and his companions were compelled to plunge 
again into the lake, — though all did not escape. Alva- 
rado stood on the brink for a moment, hesitating what 
to do. Unhorsed as he was, to throw himself into the 
water, in the face of the hostile canoes that now 
swarmed around the opening, afforded but a desperate 
chance of safety. He had but a second for thought. 
He was a man of powerful frame, and despair gave 
him unnatural energy. Setting his long lance firmly 
on the wreck which strewed the bottom of the lake, 
he sprung forward with all his might, and cleared 
the wide gap at a leap ! Aztecs and Tlascalans gazed 

16 " Luego encontraron con Pedro de Alvarado bien herido con vna 
lanca en la mano a pie, que la yegua alacana ya se la auian muerto." 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 



in stupid amazement, exclaiming, as they beheld the 
incredible feat, "This is truly the Tonatiuh, — the 
child of the Sun !" 17 The breadth of the opening is 
not given. But it was so great that the valorous cap- 
tain Diaz, who well remembered the place, says the 
leap was impossible to any man. 18 Other contempo- 
raries, however, do not discredit the story. 19 It was, 
beyond doubt, matter of popular belief at the time ; it 
is to this day familiarly known to every inhabitant of 
the capital ; and the name of the Salto de Alvarado, 

17 " Y los amigos vista tan gran hazana quedaron maravillados, y al 
instante que esto vieron se arrojaron por el suelo postrados por tierra 
en senal de hecho tan heroico, espantable y raro, que ellos no habian 
visto hacer &. ningun hombre, y ansi adoraron al Sol, comiendo puna- 
dos de tierra, arrancando yervas del campo, diciendo a grandes voces, 
verdaderamente que este hombre es hijo del Sol." (Camargo, Hist. 
de Tlascala, MS.) This writer consulted the process instituted by 
Alvarado's heirs, in which they set forth the merits of their ancestor, 
as attested by the most valorous captains of the Tlascalan nation, 
present at the Conquest. It may be that the famous leap was among 
these " merits" of which the historian speaks. M. de Humboldt, 
citing Camargo, so considers it. (Essai politique, torn. ii. p. 75.) 
This would do more than anything else to establish the fact. But 
Camargo's language does not seem to me necessarily to warrant the 

18 " Se llama aora la puente del salto de Alvarado : y platicauamos 
muchos soldados sobre ello, y no hallavamos razon, ni soltura de vn 
hombre que tal saltasse." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 

x 9 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, ubi 
supra. — Oviedc, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Which last 
author, however, frankly says that many who had seen the place de- 
clared that it seemed to them impossible. " Fue tan estremado de 
grande el salto, que a muchos hombres que han visto aquello, he 
oido decir que parece cosa imposible haberlo podido saltar ninguno 
hombre humano. En fin el lo salto k. gano por ello la vida, e per- 
dieronla muchos que atras quedaban." 


"Alvarado's Leap," given to the spot, still com- 
memorates an exploit which rivalled those of the 
demi-gods of Grecian fable. 20 

Cortes and his companions now rode forward to the 
front, where the troops, in a loose, disorderly manner, 
were marching off the fatal causeway. A few only of 
the enemy hung on their rear, or annoyed them by 

20 The spot is pointed out to every traveller. It is where a ditch, 
of no great width, is traversed by a small bridge not far from the 
western extremity of the Alameda. A house, lately erected there, 
may somewhat interfere with the meditations of the antiquary. (Ala- 
man, Disertaciones historicas, torn. i. p. 202.) As the place received 
its name in Alvarado's time, the story could scarcely have been dis- 
countenanced by him. But, since the length of the leap, strange to 
say, is nowhere given, the reader can have no means of passing his 
own judgment on its probability. [Unfortunately for the lovers of the 
marvellous another version is now given of the account of Alvarado's 
escape, which deprives him of the glory claimed for him by this 
astounding feat. In the process against him, which was not brought 
to light till several years after the present work was published, one of 
the charges was that he fled from the field, leaving his soldiers to their 
fate, and escaping by means of a beam which had survived the demoli- 
tion of the bridge and still stretched across the chasm from one side 
to the other. The chief, in his reply, said that, far from deserting his 
men, they deserted him, and that he did not fly till he was wounded 
and his horse killed under him, when he escaped across the breach, 
was taken up behind a mounted cavalier on the other side, and carried 
out of the fray. That he should not have alluded to the account given 
of the manner of his escape, so much less glorious than that usually 
claimed for him, may read us to infer that it was too true to be dis- 
puted. Such is the judgment of Seiior Ramirez, who, in his account 
of the affair, tells us that, far from being an object of admiration, 
Alvarado's escape was, in his own time, deemed rather worthy of 
punishment, as an act of desertion which cost the lives of many brave 
followers whom he left behind him. (See the Proceso de Alvarado, 
pp. 53, 68, with the caustic remarks of Ramirez, pp. xiv., 288, et seq.) 
It is natural that a descendant of the conquered race should hold in 
peculiar detestation the most cruel persecutor of the Aztecs.] 



occasional flights of arrows from the lake. The atten- 
tion of the Aztecs was diverted by the rich spoil that 
strewed the battle-ground ; fortunately for the Span- 
iards, who, had their enemy pursued with the same 
ferocity with which he had fought, would, in their 
crippled condition, have been cut off, probably, to a 
man. But little molested, therefore, they were allowed 
to defile through the adjacent village, or suburbs, it 
might be called, of Popotla. 21 

The Spanish commander there dismounted from his 
jaded steed, and, sitting down on the steps of an Indian 
temple, gazed mournfully on the broken files as they 
passed before him. What a spectacle did they present ! 
The cavalry, most of them dismounted, were mingled 
with the infantry, who dragged their feeble limbs along 
with difficulty; their shattered mail and tattered gar- 
ments dripping with the salt ooze, showing through 
their rents many a bruise and ghastly wound ; their 
bright arms soiled, their proud crests and banners gone, 
the baggage, artillery, all, in short, that constitutes 
the pride and panoply of glorious war, forever lost. 
Cortes, as he looked wistfully on their thin and disor- 
dered ranks, sought in vain for many a familiar face, 
and missed more than one dear companion who had 
stood side by side with him through all the perils of 
the Conquest. Though accustomed to control his 
emotions, or, at least, to conceal them, the sight was 

21 " Fue Dios servido de que los Mejicanos se ocupasen en recojer 
Ios despojos de los muertos, y las riquezas de oro y piedras que llevaba 
el bagage, y de sacar los muertos de aquel acequia, y & los caballos y 
otros bestias. Y por esto no siguieron el alcanze, y los Espanoles 
pudieron ir poco k poco por su camino sin tener mucha molestia de 
enemigos." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 25. 


too much for him. He covered his face with his hands, 
and the tears, which trickled down, revealed too plainly 
the anguish of his soul. 22 

He found some consolation, however, in the sight 
of several of the cavaliers on whom he most relied. 
Alvarado, Sandoval, Olid, Ordaz, Avila, were yet safe. 
He had the inexpressible satisfaction, also, of learning 
the safety of the Indian interpreter, Marina, so dear 
to him, and so important to the army. She had 
been committed, with a daughter of a Tlascalan chief, 
to several of that nation. She was fortunately placed 
in the van, and her faithful escort had carried her 
securely through all the dangers of the night. Aguilar, 
the other interpreter, had also escaped. And it was 
with no less satisfaction that Cortes learned the safety 
of the ship-builder, Martin Lopez. 23 The general's 
solicitude for the fate of this man, so indispensable, as 
he proved, to the success of his subsequent operations, 
showed that, amidst all his affliction, his indomitable 
spirit was looking forward to the hour of vengeance. 

Meanwhile, the advancing column had reached the 
neighboring city of Tlacopan (Tacuba,) once the cap- 
ital of an independent principality. There it halted 
in the great street, as if bewildered and altogether 
uncertain what course to take ; like a herd of panic- 
struck deer, who, flying from the hunters, with the cry 
of hound and horn still ringing in their ears, look 
wildly around for some glen or copse in which to 
plunge for concealment. Cortes, who had hastily 

22 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Ixtlilxochitl, 
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. 
=3 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 12. 


mounted and rode on to the front again, saw the 
danger of remaining in a populous place, where the 
inhabitants might sorely annoy the troops from the 
azoteas, with little risk to themselves. Pushing for- 
ward, therefore, he soon led them into the country. 
There he endeavored to reform his disorganized bat- 
talions and bring them to something like order. 24 

Hard by, at no great distance on the left, rose an 
eminence, looking towards a chain of mountains which 
fences in the Valley on the west. It was called the 
Hill of Otoncalpolco, and sometimes the Hill of 
Montezuma. 23 It was crowned with an Indian teocalli, 
with its large outworks of stone covering an ample 
space, and by its strong position, which commanded 
the neighboring plain, promised a good place of refuge 
for the exhausted troops. But the men, disheartened 
and stupefied by their late reverses, seemed for the 
moment incapable of further exertion ; and the place 
was held by a body of armed Indians. Cortes saw the 
necessity of dislodging them if he would save the re- 
mains of his army from entire destruction. The event 
showed he still held a control over their wills stronger 
than circumstances themselves. Cheering them on, 

** " Tacuba," says that interesting traveller, Latrobe, " lies near the 
foot of the hills, and is at the present day chiefly noted for the large 
and noble church which was erected there by Cortes. And haid 
by you trace the lines of a Spanish encampment. I do not hazard 
the opinion, but it might appear by the coincidence, that this was the 
very position chosen by Cortes for his intrenchment, after the retreat 
just mentioned, and before he commenced his painful route towards 
Otumba." (Rambler in Mexico, Letters.) I* * s evident, from our 
text, that Cortes could have thrown up no intrenchment here, at least 
on his retreat from the capital. 

2 5 Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii. 
Vol. II. — q 31 


and supported by his gallant cavaliers, he succeeded in 
infusing into the most sluggish something of his own 
intrepid temper, and led them up the ascent in face 
of the enemy. But the latter made slight resistance, 
and, after a few feeble volleys of missiles which did 
little injury, left the ground to the assailants. 

It was covered by a building of considerable size, 
and furnished ample accommodations for the dimin- 
ished numbers of the Spaniards. They found there 
some provisions ; and more, it is said, were brought 
to them, in the course of the day, from some friendly 
Otomi villages in the neighborhood. There was, 
also, a quantity of fuel in the courts, destined to the 
uses of the temple. With this they made fires to dry 
their drenched garments, and busily employed them- 
selves in dressing one another's wounds, stiff and ex- 
tremely painful from exposure and long exertion. 
Thus refreshed, the weary soldiers threw themselves 
down on the floor and courts of the temple, and soon 
found the temporary oblivion which Nature seldom 
denies even in the greatest extremity of suffering. 26 

There was one eye in that assembly, however, which 
we may well believe did not so speedily close. For 
what agitating thoughts must have crowded on the mind 
of their commander, as he beheld his poor remnant 
of followers thus huddled together in this miserable 
bivouac ! And this was all that survived of the brilliant 
array with which but a few weeks since he had entered 
the capital of Mexico ! Where now were his dreams of 

26 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24. — Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, 
MS.— Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89. 



conquest and empire ? And what was he but a luckless 
adventurer, at whom the ringer of scorn would be up- 
lifted as a madman ? Whichever way he turned, the 
horizon was almost equally gloomy, with scarcely one 
light spot to cheer him. He had still a weary journey 
before him, through perilous and unknown paths, with 
guides of whose fidelity he could not be assured. And 
how could he rely on his reception at Tlascala, the 
place of his destination, — the land of his ancient ene- 
mies, where, formerly as a foe, and now as a friend, 
he had brought desolation to every family within its 
borders ? 

Yet these agitating and gloomy reflections, which 
might have crushed a common mind, had no power 
over that of Cortes ; or, rather, they only served to 
renew his energies and quicken his perceptions, as the 
war of the elements purifies and gives elasticity to the 
atmosphere. He looked with an unblenching eye on 
his past reverses ; but, confident in his own resources, 
he saw a light through the gloom which others could 
not. Even in the shattered relics which lay around 
him, resembling in their haggard aspect and wild attire 
a horde of famished outlaws, he discerned the materials 
out of which to reconstruct his ruined fortunes. In 
the very hour of discomfiture and general despondency, 
there is no doubt that his heroic spirit was meditating 
the plan of operations which he afterwards pursued 
with such dauntless constancy. 

The loss sustained by the Spaniards on this fatal 
night, like every other event in the history of the 
Conquest, is reported with the greatest discrepancy. 
If we believe Cortes' own letter, it did not exceed one 


hundred and fifty Spaniards and two thousand Indians. 
But the general's bulletins, while they do full justice to 
the difficulties to be overcome and the importance of 
the results, are less scrupulous in stating the extent 
either of his means or of his losses. Thoan Cano, one 
of the cavaliers present, estimates the slain at eleven 
hundred and seventy Spaniards and eight thousand 
allies. But this is a greater number than we have 
allowed for the whole army. Perhaps we may come 
nearest the truth by taking the computation of Gomara, 
who was the chaplain of Cortes, and who had free 
access, doubtless, not only to the general's papers, but 
to other authentic sources of information. According 
to him, the number of Christians killed and missing 
was four hundred and fifty, and that of natives four 
thousand. This, with the loss sustained in the con- 
flicts of the previous week, may have reduced the 
former to something more than a third, and the latter 
to a fourth, or perhaps fifth, of the original force with 
which they entered the capital. 27 The brunt of the 

V The table below may give the reader some idea of the discrepan- 
cies in numerical estimates, even among eye-witnesses, and writers 
who, having access to the actors, are nearly of equal authority : 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 145, 

Cano, ap. Oviedo, lib. 33, cap. 54, 

Probanza, etc., 

Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., lib. 33, cap. 13, 


Gomara, cap. 109, 

Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., cap. 88, 

Sahagun, lib. 12, cap. 24, 

Herrera, dec. 2, lib. io, cap. 12, 

Bernal Diaz does not take the trouble to agree with himself. After 
stating that the rear, on which the loss fell heaviest, consisted of 120 



d Missing. 



, 2000 


1 1 70 

































action fell on the rear-guard, few of whom escaped. 
It was formed chiefly of the soldiers of Narvaez, who 
fell the victims, in some measure, of their cupidity. 28 
Forty-six of the cavalry were cut off, which with pre- 
vious losses reduced the number in this branch of the 
service to twenty-three, and some of these in very poor 
condition. The greater part of the treasure, the bag- 
gage, the general's papers, including his accounts, and 
a minute diary of transactions since leaving Cuba, — 
which, to posterity at least, would have been of more 
worth than the gold, — had been swallowed up by the 
waters. 29 The ammunition, the beautiful little train of 
artillery with which Cortes had entered the city, were 

men, he adds, in the same paragraph, that 150 of these were slain, 
which number swells to 200 in a few lines further ! Falstaff 's men in 
buckram ! See Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Cano's estimate em- 
braces, it is true, those — but their number was comparatively small — 
who perished subsequently on the march. The same authority states 
that 270 of the garrison, ignorant of the proposed departure of their 
countrymen, were perfidiously left in the palace of Axayacatl, where 
they surrendered on terms, but were subsequently all sacrificed by the 
Aztecs! (See Appendix, Part 2, No. 11.) The improbability of this 
monstrous story, by which the army with all its equipage could leave 
the citadel without the knowledge of so many of their comrades, — 
and this be permitted, too, at a juncture which made every man's co- 
operation so important, — is too obvious to require refutation. Herrera 
records, what is much more probable, that Cortes gave particular 
orders to the captain, Ojeda, to see that none of the sleeping or 
wounded should, in the hurry of the moment, be overlooked in their 
quarters. Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. II. 

38 " Pues de los de Narvaez, todos los mas en las puentes quedaron, 
cargados de oro." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 

=9 According to Diaz, part of the gold intrusted to the Tlascalan 
convoy was preserved. (Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 136.) From the 
document already cited, — Probanza de Villa Segura, MS., — it appears 
that it was a Castilian guard who had charge of it. 



all gone. Not a musket even remained, the men 
having thrown them away, eager to disencumber them- 
selves of all that might retard their escape on that 
disastrous night. Nothing, in short, of their military 
apparatus was left, but their swords, their crippled 
cavalry, and a few damaged cross-bows, to assert the 
superiority of the European over the barbarian. 

The prisoners, including, as already noticed, the 
children of Montezuma and the cacique of Tezcuco, all 
perished by the hands of their ignorant countrymen, it 
is said, in the indiscriminate fury of the assault. There 
were, also, some persons of consideration among the 
Spaniards whose names were inscribed on the same 
bloody roll of slaughter. Such was Francisco de Morla, 
who fell by the side of Cortes on returning with him to 
the rescue. But the greatest loss was that of Juan Ve- 
lasquez de Leon, who, with Alvarado, had command 
of the rear. It was the post of danger on that night, 
and he fell, bravely defending it, at an early part of 
the retreat. He was an excellent officer, possessed of 
many knightly qualities, though somewhat haughty in 
his bearing, being one of the best-connected cavaliers in 
the army. The near relation of the governor of Cuba, 
he looked coldly, at first, on the pretensions of Cortes; 
but, whether from a conviction that the latter had been 
wronged, or from personal preference, he afterwards 
attached himself zealously to his leader's interests. The 
general requited this with a generous confidence, as- 
signing him, as we have seen, a separate and independ- 
ent command, where misconduct, or even a mistake, 
would have been fatal to the expedition. Velasquez 
proved himself worthy of the trust ; and there was no 


3 6 7 

cavalier in the army, with the exception, perhaps, of 
Sandoval and Alvarado, whose loss would have been so 
deeply deplored by the commander. Such were the 
disastrous results of this terrible passage of the cause- 
way ; more disastrous than those occasioned by any 
other reverse which has stained the Spanish arms in 
the New World ; and which have branded the night 
on which it happened, in the national annals, with the 
name of the noche triste, "the sad or melancholy 
night." 30 

3° Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 13. — Probanza en la Villa Segura, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. 
de la Conquista, cap. 128. 






The Mexicans, during the day which followed the 
retreat of the Spaniards, remained, for the most part, 
quiet in their own capital, where they found occupation 
in cleansing the streets and causeways from the dead, 
which lay festering in heaps that might have bred a 
pestilence. They may have been employed, also, in 
paying the last honors to such of their warriors as had 
fallen, solemnizing the funeral rites by the sacrifice of 
their wretched prisoners, who, as they contemplated 
their own destiny, may well have envied the fate of 
their companions who left their bones on the battle- 
field. It was most fortunate for the Spaniards, in their 
extremity, that they had this breathing-time allowed 
them by the enemy. But Cortes knew that he could 
not calculate on its continuance, and, feeling how im- 
portant it was to get the start of his vigilant foe, he 
ordered his troops to be in readiness to resume their 
march by midnight. Fires were left burning, the 
better to deceive the enemy; and at the appointed 
hour the little army, without sound of drum or trumpet, 
but with renewed spirits, sallied forth from the gates 
of the teocalli, within whose hospitable walls they had 


found such seasonable succor. The place is now indi- 
cated by a Christian church, dedicated to the Virgin, 
under the title of Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, 
whose miraculous image — the very same, it is said, 
brought over by the followers of Cortes 1 — still extends 
her beneficent sway over the neighboring capital ; and 
the traveller who pauses within the precincts of the 
consecrated fane may feel that he is standing on the 
spot made memorable by the refuge it afforded to the 
Conquerors in the hour of their deepest despondency. 2 

It was arranged that the sick and wounded should 
occupy the centre, transported on litters, or on the 
backs of the tamanes, while those who were strong 
enough to keep their seats should mount behind the 
cavalry. The able-bodied soldiers were ordered to the 
front and rear, while others protected the flanks, thus 
affording all the security possible to the invalids. 

The retreating army held on its way unmolested 
under cover of the darkness. But, as morning dawned, 
they beheld parties of the natives moving over the 
heights, or hanging at a distance, like a cloud of 
locusts, on their rear. They did not belong to the 
capital, but were gathered from the neighboring coun- 
try, where the tidings of their rout had already pene- 

1 Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii. 

a The last instance, I believe, of the direct interposition of the Virgin 
in behalf of the metropolis was in 1833, when she was brought into 
the city to avert the cholera. She refused to pass the night in town, 
however, but was found the next morning in her own sanctuary at Los 
Remedios, showing, by the mud with which she was plentifully bespat- 
tered, that she must have performed the distance — several leagues — . 
through the miry ways on foot ! See Latrobe, Rambler in Mexico, 
Letter 5. 




trated. The charm which had hitherto covered the 
white men was gone. The dread Teules were no 
longer invincible. 3 

The Spaniards, under the conduct of their Tlascalan 
guides, took a circuitous route to the north, passing 
through Quauhtitlan, and round lake Tzompanco 
(Zumpango), thus lengthening their march, but keep- 
ing at a distance from the capital. From the emi- 
nences, as they passed along, the Indians rolled down 
heavy stones, mingled with volleys of darts and arrows, 
on the heads of the soldiers. Some were even bold 
enough to descend into the plain and assault the ex- 
tremities of the column. But they were soon beaten 
off by the horse, and compelled to take refuge among 
the hills, where the ground was too rough for the rider 
to follow. Indeed, the Spaniards did not care to do 
so, their object being rather to fly than to fight. 

In this way they slowly advanced, halting at inter- 
vals to drive off their assailants when they became too 
importunate, and greatly distressed by their missiles 

3 The epithet by which, according to Diaz, the Castilians were con- 
stantly addressed by the natives, and which — whether correctly or 
not — he interprets into gods, or divine beings. (See Hist, de la Con- 
quista, cap. 48, et alibi.) One of the stanzas of Ercilla intimates the 
existence of a similar delusion among the South American Indians, — 
and a similar cure of it : 

" Por dioses, como dixe, eran tenidos 
de los Indios los nuestros ; pero olieron 
que de muger y hombre eran nacidos, 
y todas sus fiaquezas entendieron : 
viendolos a miserias sometidos, 
el error ignorante conocieVon, 
ardiendo en viva rabia avergonzados 
por verse de mortales conquistados." 

La Araucana, Parte r, Canto 2 



and their desultory attacks. At night, the troops 
usually found shelter in some town or hamlet, whence 
the inhabitants, in anticipation of their approach, had 
been careful to carry off all the provisions. The Span- 
iards were soon reduced to the greatest straits for sub- 
sistence. Their principal food was the wild cherry, 
which grew in the woods or by the roadside. Fortu- 
nate were they if they found a few ears of corn un- 
plucked. More frequently nothing was left but the 
stalks ; and with them, and the like unwholesome fare ; 
they were fain to supply the cravings of appetite. 
When a horse happened to be killed, it furnished an 
extraordinary banquet ; and Cortes himself records the 
fact of his having made one of a party who thus sump- 
tuously regaled themselves, devouring the animal even 
to his hide. 4 

The wretched soldiers, faint with famine and fatigue, 
were sometimes seen to drop down lifeless on the road. 
Others loitered behind, unable to keep up with the 
inarch, and fell into the hands of the enemy, who fol- 
lowed in the track of the army like a flock of famished 

4 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 147. — Hunger furnished 
them a sauce, says Oviedo, which made their horse-flesh as relishing 
as the far-famed sausages of Naples, the delicate kid of Avila, or the 
savory veal of Saragossa ! " Con la came del caballo tubieron buen 
pasto, 6 se consoldron 6 mitig&ron en parte su hambre, e se lo comi- 
eron sin dexar cuero. ni otra cosa del sino los huesos, e las vnas, y el 
pelo ; e aun las tripas no les parecio de menos buen gusto que las 
sobreasados de Napoles, 6 los gentiles cabritos de Abila, 6 las sabrosas 
Terneras de Zaragosa, segun la estrema necesidad que llevaban ; por 
que despues que de la gran cibdad de Temixtitan havian salido, nin- 
guna otra cosa comieron sino mahiz tostado, e cocido, e yervas del 
campo, y desto no tanto quanto quisieran 6 ovieran menester." Hist, 
de las Tnd., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 


vultures, eager to pounce on the dying and the dead. 
Others, again, who strayed too far, in their eagerness 
to procure sustenance, shared the same fate. The 
number of these, at length, and the consciousness of 
the cruel lot for which they were reserved, compelled 
Cortes to introduce stricter discipline, and to enforce 
it by sterner punishments than he had hitherto done, — 
though too often ineffectually, such was the indiffer- 
ence to danger, under the overwhelming pressure of 
present calamity. 

In their prolonged distresses, the soldiers ceased to 
set a value on those very things for which they had 
once been content to hazard life itself. More than 
one who had brought his golden treasure safe through 
the perils of the noche triste now abandoned it as 
an intolerable burden ; and the rude Indian peasant 
gleaned up, with wondering delight, the bright frag- 
ments of the spoils of the capital. 5 

Through these weary days Cortes displayed his usual 
serenity and fortitude. He was ever in the post of 
danger, freely exposing himself in encounters with the 
enemy ; in one of which he received a severe wound 
in the head that afterwards gave him much trouble. 6 He 
fared no better than the humblest soldier, and strove, 
by his own cheerful countenance and counsels, to for- 
tify the courage of those who faltered, assuring them 
that their sufferings would soon be ended by their 

5 Herrera mentions one soldier who had succeeded in carrying off 
his gold to the value of 3000 castellanos across the causeway, and 
afterwards flung it away by the advice of Cortes. " The devil take 
your gold," said the commander bluntly to him, " if it is to cost you 
your life." Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 11. 

6 Gomara, Cronica, cap. no. 



arrival in the hospitable " land of bread." 7 His faith- 
ful officers co-operated with him in these efforts ; and 
the common file, indeed, especially his own veterans, 
must be allowed, for the most part, to have shown a 
full measure of the constancy and power of endurance 
so characteristic of their nation, — justifying the honest 
boast of an old chronicler, " that there was no people 
so capable of supporting hunger as the Spaniards, and 
none of them who were ever more severely tried than 
the soldiers of Cortes." 8 A similar fortitude was 
shown by the Tlascalans, trained in a rough school 
that made them familiar with hardship and privations. 
Although they sometimes threw themselves on the 
ground, in the extremity of famine, imploring their 
gods not to abandon them, they did their duty as war- 
riors, and, far from manifesting coldness towards the 
Spaniards as the cause of their distresses, seemed only 
the more firmly knit to them by the sense of a common 

On the seventh morning, the army had reached the 
mountain rampart which overlooks the plains of Otom- 
pan, or Otumba, as commonly called, from the Indian 
city — now a village — situated in them. The distance 
from the capital is hardly nine leagues. But the Span- 
iards had travelled more than thrice that distance, in 
their circuitous march round the lakes. This had been 
performed so slowly that it consumed a week, two nights 

7 The meaning of the word Tlascala, and so called from the abun- 
dance of maize raised in the country. Boturini, Idea, p. 78. 

8 " Empero la Nacion nuestra Espanola sufre mas hambre que otra 
ninguna, i estos de Cortes mas que todos." Gomara, Cronica, cap. 

Vol. II. 32 


of which had been passed in the same quarters, from 
the absolute necessity of rest. It was not, therefore, 
till the seventh of July that they reached the heights 
commanding the plains which stretched far away to- 
wards the territory of Tlascala, in full view of the 
venerable pyramids of Teotihuacan, two of the most 
remarkable monuments of the antique American civili- 
zation now existing north of the Isthmus. During all 
the preceding day they had seen parties of the enemy 
hovering like dark clouds above the highlands, bran- 
dishing their weapons, and calling out, in vindictive 
tones, " Hasten on ! You will soon find yourselves 
where you cannot escape!" words of mysterious im- 
port, which they were made fully to comprehend on 
the following morning. 9 

The monuments of San Juan Teotihuacan are, with 
the exception of the temple of Cholula, the most an- 
cient remains, probably, on the Mexican soil. They 
were found by the Aztecs, according to their traditions, 
on their entrance into the country, when Teotihuacan, 
the habitation of the gods, now a paltry village, was a 
flourishing city, the rival of Tula, the great Toltec 
capital. 10 The two principal pyramids were dedicated 

9 For the foregoing pages, see Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS., — 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128, — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, — Gomara, Cronica, ubi supra, — Ixtlilxo- 
chitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89, — Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, 
ca p, 6, — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 1.47, 148, — Saha- 
gun, Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 25, 26. 

10 " Su nombre, que quiere decir habitation de los Dioses, y que ya 
por estos tiempos era ciudad tan famosa, que no solo competia, pero 
excedia con muchas ventajas a la corte de Tollan." Veytia, Hist 
antig., torn. i. cap. 27. 



to Tonatluh, the Sun, and Meztli, the Moon. The 
former, which is considerably the larger, is found by 
recent measurements to be six hundred and eighty-two 
feet long at the base, and one hundred and eighty feet 
high, dimensions not inferior to those of some of the 
kindred monuments of Egypt." They were divided 
into four stories, of which three are now discernible, 
while the vestiges of the intermediate gradations are 
nearly effaced. In fact, time has dealt so roughly with 
them, and the materials have been so much displaced 
by the treacherous vegetation of the tropics, muffling 
up with its flowery mantle the ruin which it causes, that 
it is not easy to discern at once the pyramidal form of 
the structures. 12 The huge masses bear such resem- 
blance to the North American mounds that some have 
fancied them to be only natural eminences shaped by 
the hand of man into a regular form, and ornamented 
with the temples and terraces the wreck of which still 
covers their slopes. But others, seeing no example of 
a similar elevation in the wide plain in which they 

11 The pyramid of Mycerinos is 280 feet only at the base, and 
162 feet in height. The great pyramid of Cheops is 728 feet at the 
base, and 448 feet high. See Denon, Egypt Illustrated (London, 
1825), p. 9. 

12 " It requires a particular position," says Mr. Tudor, " united with 
some little faith, to discover the pyramidal form at all." (Tour in 
North America, vol. ii. p. 277.) Yet Mr. Bullock says, " The general 
figure of the square is as perfect as the great pyramid of Egypt." 
(Six Months in Mexico, vol. ii. chap. 26.) Eye-witnesses both 1 The 
historian must often content himself with repeating, in the words of 
the old French lay, — 

" Si coinje Fai trovi escrite, 
Vos conterai la verite." 


stand, infer, with more probability, that they are wholly 
of an artificial construction.' 3 

The interior is composed of clay mixed with pebbles, 
incrusted on the surface with the light porous stone, 
tetzontli, so abundant in the neighboring quarries. 
Over this was a thick coating of stucco, resembling, in 
its reddish color, that found in the ruins of Balenque. 
According to tradition, the pyramids are hollow; but 
hitherto the attempt to discover the cavity in that 
dedicated to the Sun has been unsuccessful. In the 
smaller mound an aperture has been found on the 
southern side, at two-thirds of the elevation. It is 
formed by a narrow gallery, which, after penetrating 
to the distance of several yards, terminates in two pits 
or wells. The largest of these is about fifteen feet 
deep, 14 and the sides are faced with unbaked bricks ; 
but to what purpose it was devoted, nothing is left to 
show. It may have been to hold the ashes of some 
powerful chief, like the solitary apartment discovered 
in the great Egyptian pyramid. That these monuments 
were dedicated to religious uses, there is no doubt ', and 
it would be only conformable to the practice of an- 
tiquity in the Eastern continent that they should have 
served for tombs as well as temples. 15 

*3 This is M. de Humboldt's opinion. (See his Essai politique, torn, 
ii. pp. 66-70.) He has also discussed these interesting monuments 
in his Vues des Cordilleres, p. 25, et seq. 

M Latrobe gives the description of this cavity, into which he and his 
fellow travellers penetrated. Rambler in Mexico, Letter 7. 
x - " Et tot templa deum Romse, quot in urbe sepulcra 
Heroum numerare licet : quos fabula manes 
Nobilitat, noster populus veneratus adorat." 

Prudentius, Contra Sym., lib. 1. 



Distinct traces of the latter destination are said to 
be visible on the summit of the smaller pyramid, con- 
sisting of the remains of stone walls showing a building 
of considerable size and strength. 16 There are no re- 
mains on the top of the pyramid of the Sun. But the 
traveller who will take the trouble to ascend its bald 
summit will be amply compensated by the glorious 
view it will open to him ; — towards the southeast, the 
hills of Tlascala, surrounded by their green plantations 
and cultivated corn-fields, in the midst of which stands 
the little village, once the proud capital of the republic. 
Somewhat farther to the south, the eye passes across 
the beautiful plains lying around the city of Puebla de 
los Angeles, founded by the old Spaniards, and still 
rivalling, in the splendor of its churches, the most 
brilliant capitals of Europe ; and far in the west he may 
behold the Valley of Mexico, spread out like a map, 
with its diminished lakes, its princely capital rising 
in still greater glory from its ruins, and its rugged 
hills gathering darkly around it, as in the days of 

The summit of this larger mound is said to have 
been crowned by a temple, in which was a colossal 
statue of its presiding deity, the Sun, made of one 
entire block of stone, and facing the east. Its breast 
was protected by a plate of burnished gold and silver, 
on which the first rays of the rising luminary rested. 17 

t6 The dimensions are given by Bullock (Six Months in Mexico, 
vol. ii. chap. 26), who has sometimes seen what has eluded the optics 
of other travellers. 

»7 Such is the account given by the cavalier Boturini. Idea, pp. 
42, 43- 



An antiquary, in the early part of the last century, 
speaks of having seen some fragments of the statue. 
It was still standing, according to report, on the in- 
vasion of the Spaniards, and was demolished by the 
indefatigable Bishop Zumarraga, whose hand fell more 
heavily than that of Time itself on the Aztec monu- 
ments. 18 

Around the principal pyramids are a great number 
of smaller ones, rarely exceeding thirty feet in height, 
which, according to tradition, were dedicated to the 
stars and served as sepulchres for the great men of the 
nation. They are arranged symmetrically in avenues 
terminating at the sides of the great pyramids, which 
face the cardinal points. The plain on which they 
stand was called Micoatl, or "Path of the Dead." 
The laborer, as he turns up the ground, still finds there 
numerous arrow-heads, and blades of obsidian, attesting 
the warlike character of its primitive population. 19 

What thoughts must crowd on the mind of the trav- 
eller as he wanders amidst these memorials of the past; 
as he treads over the ashes of the generations who reared 
these colossal fabrics, which take us from the present 
into the very depths of time ! But who were their 
builders ? Was it the shadowy Olmecs, whose history, 
like that of the ancient Titans, is lost in the mists of 

18 Both Ixtlilxochitl and Boturini, who visited these monuments, 
one early in the seventeenth, the other in the first part of the eigh- 
teenth century, testify to their having seen the remains of this statue. 
They had entirely disappeared by 1757, when Veytia examined the 
pyramid. Hist, antig., torn. i. cap. 26. 

19 " Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro, 
Exesa inveniet scabra rubigine pila," etc. 
Georg., lib. i. 



fable ? or, as commonly reported, the peaceful and 
industrious Toltecs, of whom all that we can glean 
rests on traditions hardly more secure ? What has 
become of the races who built them ? Did they remain 
on the soil, and mingle and become incorporated with 
the fierce Aztecs who succeeded them ? Or did they 
pass on to the South, and find a wider field for the 
expansion of their civilization, as shown by the higher 
character of the architectural remains in the distant 
regions of Central America and Yucatan ? It is all a 
mystery, — over which time has thrown an impenetrable 
veil, that no mortal hand may raise. A nation has 
passed away, — powerful, populous, and well advanced 
in refinement, as attested by their monuments, — but it 
has perished without a name. It has died and made 
no sign ! 

Such speculations, however, do not seem to have 
disturbed the minds of the Conquerors, who have not 
left a single line respecting these time-honored struc- 
tures, though they passed in full view of them, — per- 
haps under their very shadows. In the sufferings of 
the present they had little leisure to bestow on the past. 
Indeed, the new and perilous position in which at this 
very spot they found themselves must naturally have 
excluded every other thought from their bosoms but 
that of self-preservation. 

As the army was climbing the mountain steeps which 
shut in the Valley of Otompan, the vedettes came in 
with the intelligence that a powerful body was encamped 
on the other side, apparently awaiting their approach. 
The intelligence was soon confirmed by their own 
eyes, as they turned the crest of the sierra, and saw 


spread out, below, a mighty host, filling up the whole 
depth of the valley, and giving to it the appearance, 
from the white cotton mail of the warriors, of being 
covered with snow. 20 It consisted of levies from the 
surrounding country, and especially the populous ter- 
ritory of Tezcuco, drawn together at the instance of 
Cuitlahua, Montezuma's successor, and now concen- 
trated on this point to dispute the passage of the Span- 
iards. Every chief of note had taken the field with 
his whole array gathered under his standard, proudly 
displaying all the pomp and rude splendor of his mili- 
tary equipment. As far as the eye could reach, were 
to be seen shields and waving banners, fantastic hel- 
mets, forests of shining spears, the bright feather-mail 
of the chief, and the coarse cotton panoply of his fol- 
lower, all mingled together in wild confusion and tossing 
to and fro like the billows of a troubled ocean. 21 It 
was a sight to fill the stoutest heart among the Chris- 
tians with dismay, heightened by the previous expecta- 
tion of soon reaching the friendly land which was to 
terminate their wearisome pilgrimage. Even Cortes, 
as he contrasted the tremendous array before him 
with his own diminished squadrons, wasted by disease 
and enfeebled by hunger and fatigue, could not escape 
the conviction that his last hour had arrived. 22 

20 " Y como iban vestidos de bianco, parecia el campo nevado." 
Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. 

21 " Vistosa confusion," says Solis, " de armas y penachos, en que 
tenian su hermosura los horrores." (Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 20.) His 
painting shows the hand of a great artist, — which he certainly was. 
But he should not have put fire-arms into the hands of his country- 
men on this occasion. 

23 " Y cierto creimos ser aquel el ultimo de nuestros dias." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 148. 


But his was not the heart to despond ; and he gath- 
ered strength from the very extremity of his situation. 
He had no room for hesitation ; for there was no alter- 
native left to him. To escape was impossible. He 
could not retreat on the capital, from which he had 
been expelled. He must advance, — cut through the 
enemy, or perish. He hastily made his dispositions 
for the fight. He gave his force as broad a front as 
possible, protecting it on each flank by his little body 
of horse, now reduced to twenty. Fortunately, he 
had not allowed the invalids, for the last two days, to 
mount behind the riders, from a desire to spare the 
horses, so that these were now in tolerable condition ; 
and, indeed, the whole army had been refreshed by 
halting, as we have seen, two nights and a day in the 
same place, a delay, however, which had allowed the 
enemy time to assemble in such force to dispute its 

Cortes instructed his cavaliers not to part with their 
lances, and to direct them at the face. The infantry 
were to thrust, not strike, with their swords ; passing 
them at once through the bodies of their enemies. 
They were, above all, to aim at the leaders, as the 
general well knew how much depends on the life of the 
commander in the wars of barbarians, whose want of 
subordination makes them impatient of any control but 
that to which they are accustomed. 

He then addressed to his troops a few words of en- 
couragement, as customary with him on the eve of an 
engagement. He reminded them of the victories they 
had won with odds nearly as discouraging as the pres- 
ent ; thus establishing the superiority of science and 


discipline over numbers. Numbers, indeed, were of 
no account, where the arm of the Almighty was on 
their side. And he bade them have full confidence 
that He who had carried them safely through so many 
perils would not now abandon them and his own good 
cause to perish by the hand of the infidel. His ad- 
dress was brief, for he read in their looks that settled 
resolve which rendered words unnecessary. The cir- 
cumstances of their position spoke more forcibly to the 
heart of every soldier than any eloquence could have 
done, filling it with that feeling of desperation which 
makes the weak arm strong and turns the coward into 
a hero. After they had earnestly commended them- 
selves, therefore, to the protection of God, the Virgin, 
and St. James, Cortes led his battalions straight against 
the enemy. 23 

It was a solemn moment, that in which the devoted 
little band, with steadfast countenances and their usual 
intrepid step, descended on the plain, to be swallowed 
up, as it were, in the vast ocean of their enemies. The 
latter rushed on with impetuosity to meet them, making 
the mountains ring to their discordant yells and battle- 
cries, and sending forth volleys of stones and arrows 
which for a moment shut out the light of day. But,- 
when the leading files of the two armies closed, the 
superiority of the Christians was felt, as their antago- 

■n Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS.— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
lib. 33, cap. 14. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — 
Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27. — Cortes might 
have addressed his troops, as Napoleon did his in the famous battle 
with the Mamelukes : " From yonder pyramids forty centuries look 
down upon you." But the situation of the Spaniards was altogether 
too serious for theatrical display. 


nists, falling back before the charges of cavalry, were 
thrown into confusion by their own numbers who 
pressed on them from behind. The Spanish infantry 
followed up the blow, and a wide lane was opened in 
the ranks of the enemy, who, receding on all sides, 
seemed willing to allow a free passage for their oppo- 
nents. But it was to return on them with accumulated 
force, as rallying they poured upon the Christians, en- 
veloping the little army on all sides, which, with its 
bristling array of long swords and javelins, stood firm, 
— in the words of a contemporary, — like an islet against 
which the breakers, roaring and surging, spend their 
fury in vain. 24 The struggle was desperate of man 
against man. The Tlascalan seemed to renew his 
strength, as he fought almost in view of his own native 
hills ; as did the Spaniard, with the horrible doom of 
the captive before his eyes. Well did the cavaliers do 
their duty on that day ; charging, in little bodies of 
four or five abreast, deep into the enemy's ranks, riding 
over the broken files, and by this temporary advantage 
giving strength and courage to the infantry. Not a 
lance was there which did not reek with the blood 
of the infidel. Among the rest, the young captain 
Sandoval is particularly commemorated for his daring 
prowess. Managing his fiery steed with easy horse- 
manship, he darted, when least expected, into the 
thickest of the melee, overturning the stanchest war- 

*4 It is Sahagun's simile: " Estaban los Espanoles como una Isleta 
en el mar, combatida de las olas por todas partes." (Hist, de Nueva- 
Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27.) The venerable missionary gathered the 
particulars of the action, as he informs us, from several who were 
present in it. 


riors, and rejoicing in danger, as if it were his natural 
element. 25 

But these gallant displays of heroism served only to 
ingulf the Spaniards deeper and deeper in the mass of 
the enemy, with scarcely any more chance of cutting 
their way through his dense and interminable battalions 
than of hewing a passage with their swords through 
the mountains. Many of the Tlascalans and some of 
the Spaniards had fallen, and not one but had been 
wounded. Cortes himself had received a second cut 
on the head, and his horse was so much injured that 
he was compelled to dismount, and take one from the 
baggage train, a strong-boned animal, who carried him 
well through the turmoil of the day. 26 The contest 
had now lasted several hours. The sun rode high in 
the heavens, and shed an intolerable fervor over the 
plain. The Christians, weakened by previous suffer- 
ings, and faint with loss of blood, began to relax in 
their desperate exertions. Their enemies, constantly 
supported by fresh relays from the rear, were still in 

a s The epic bard Ercilla's spirited portrait of the young warrior 
Tucapel may be applied without violence to Sandoval, as described 
by the Castilian chroniclers : 

" Cubierto Tucapel de fina malla 
salto como un ligero y suelto pardo 
en medio de la timida canalla, 
haciendo plaza el barbaro gallardo : 
con silvos grita en desigual batalla : 
con piedra, palo, flecha, lanza y dardo 
le persigue la gente de manera 
como si fuera toro, 6 brava fiera." 

La Araucana, Parte 1, canto 8. 

26 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. — " Este caballo 
harriero," says Camargo, " le sirvio en la conquista de Mejico, y en la 
ultima guerra que se dio se le mataron." Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 



good heart, and, quick to perceive their advantage, 
pressed with redoubled force on the Spaniards. The 
horse fell back, crowded on the foot ; and the latter, 
in vain seeking a passage amidst the dusky throngs of 
the enemy, who now closed up the rear, were thrown 
into some disorder. The tide of battle was setting 
rapidly against the Christians. The fate of the day 
would soon be decided; and all that now remained 
for them seemed to be to sell their lives as dearly as 

At this critical moment, Cortes, whose restless eye 
had been roving round the field in quest of any object 
that might offer him the means of arresting the coming 
ruin, rising in his stirrups, descried at a distance, in 
the midst of the throng, the chief who from his dress 
and military cortege he knew must be the commander 
of the barbarian forces. He was covered with a rich 
surcoat of feather-work ; and a panache of beautiful 
plumes, gorgeously set in gold and precious stones, 
floated above his head. Rising above this, and attached 
to his back, between the shoulders, was a short staff 
bearing a golden net for a banner, — the singular, but 
customary, symbol of authority for an Aztec com- 
mander. The cacique, whose name was Cihuaca, was 
borne on a litter, and a body of young warriors, whose 
gay and ornamented dresses showed them to be the 
flower of the Indian nobles, stood round as a guard of 
his person and the sacred emblem. 

The eagle eye of Cortes no sooner fell on this per- 
sonage than it lighted up with triumph. Turning 
quickly round to the cavaliers at his side, among whom 
were Sandoval, Olid, Alvarado, and Avila, he pointed 
Vol. II. — r 33 


out the chief, exclaiming, "There is our mark ! Fol- 
low and support me !" Then, crying his war-cry, and 
striking his iron heel into his weary steed, he plunged 
headlong into the thickest of the press. His enemies 
fell back, taken by surprise and daunted by the ferocity 
of the attack. Those who did not were pierced through 
with his lance or borne down by the weight of his 
charger. The cavaliers followed close in the rear. 
On they swept with the fury of a thunderbolt, cleaving 
the solid ranks asunder, strewing their path with the 
dying and the dead, and bounding over every obstacle 
in their way. In a few minutes they were in the pres- 
ence of the Indian commander, and Cortes, overturn- 
ing his supporters, sprang forward with the strength of 
a lion, and, striking him through with his lance, hurled 
him to the ground. A young cavalier, Juan de Sala- 
manca, who had kept close by his general's side, 
quickly dismounted and despatched the fallen chief. 
Then, tearing away his banner, he presented it to 
Cortes, as a trophy to which he had the best claim. 27 
It was all the work of a moment. The guard, over- 
powered by the suddenness of the onset, made little 
resistance, but, flying, communicated their own panic 
to their comrades. The tidings of the loss soon spread 
over the field. The Indians, filled with consternation, 
now thought only of escape. In their blind terror, 
their numbers augmented their confusion. They tram- 

27 The brave cavalier was afterwards permitted by the emperor 
Charles V. to assume this trophy on his own escutcheon, in com- 
memoration of his exploit. Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 128. 


pled on one another, fancying it was the enemy in their 
rear. 28 

The Spaniards and Tlascalans were not slow to avail 
themselves of the marvellous change in their affairs. 
Their fatigue, their wounds, hunger, thirst, all were 
forgotten in the eagerness for vengeance ; and they 
followed up the flying foe, dealing death at every stroke, 
and taking ample retribution for all they had suffered 
in the bloody marshes of Mexico. 29 Long did they 
pursue, till, the enemy having abandoned the field, 
they returned, sated with slaughter, to glean the booty 
which he had left. It was great, for the ground was 
covered with the bodies of chiefs, at whom the Span- 
iards, in obedience to the general's instructions, had 
particularly aimed ; and their dresses displayed all the 

28 The historians all concur in celebrating this glorious achievement 
of Cortes ; who, concludes Gomara, " by his single arm saved the 
whole army from destruction." See Cronica, cap. no. — Also Saha- 
gun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27. — Camargo, Hist, 
de Tlascala, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. — 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Herrera, Hist, gene- 
ral, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89. 
— The brief and extremely modest notice of the affair in the general's 
own letter forms a beautiful contrast to the style of panegyric by 
others : "In this arduous contest we consumed a great part of the 
day, until it pleased God that a person was slain in their ranks of such 
consequence that his death put an end to the battle." Rel. Seg., ap. 
Lorenzana, p. 148. 

29 " Pues k nosotros," says the doughty Captain Diaz, " no nos 
dolian las heridas, ni teniamos hambre, ni sed, sino que parecia que 
no auiamos auido, ni passado ningun mal trabajo. Seguimos la 
vitoria matando, e hiriendo. Pues nuestros amigos los de Tlascala 
estavan hechos vnos leones, y con sus espadas, y montantes, y otras 
armas que alii apandron, hazianlo muy bie y esforcadamente." Hist. 
de la Conquista, loc. cit. 


barbaric pomp of ornament in which the Indian war- 
rior delighted. 30 When his men had thus indemnified 
themselves, in some degree, for their late reverses, 
Cortes called them again under their banners; and, 
after offering up a grateful acknowledgment to the 
Lord of Hosts for their miraculous preservation, 31 they 
renewed their march across the now deserted valley. 
The sun was declining in the heavens, but, before the 
shades of evening had gathered around, they reached 
an Indian temple on an eminence, which afforded a 
strong and commodious position for the night. 

Such was the famous battle of Otompan, — or Otumba, 
as commonly called, from the Spanish corruption of 
the name. It was fought on the eighth of July, 1520. 
The whole amount of the Indian force is reckoned by 
Castilian writers at two hundred thousand ! that of the 
slain at twenty thousand ! Those who admit the first 
part of the estimate will find no difficulty in receiving 
the last. 32 It is about as difficult to form an accurate 
calculation of the numbers of a disorderly savage mul- 

3° Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 

3 1 The belligerent apostle St. James, riding, as usual, his milk-white 
courser, came to the rescue on this occasion ; an event commemorated 
by the dedication of a hermitage to him, in the neighborhood. 
(Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala.) Diaz, a skeptic on former occasions, 
admits his indubitable appearance on this. (Hist, de la Conquista, ubi 
supra.) According to the Tezcucan chronicler, he was supported by 
the Virgin and St. Peter. (Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 89.) Voltaire 
sensibly remarks, " Ceux qui ont fait les relations de ces etranges 
eVenemens les ont voulu relever par des miracles, qui ne servent en 
effet qu'a les rabaisser. Le vrai miracle fut la conduite de Cortes." 
Voltaire, Essai sur les Moeurs, chap. 147. 

3 2 See Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Herrera, 
Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. no. 


titude as of the pebbles on the beach or the scattered 
leaves in autumn. Yet it was, undoubtedly, one of 
the most remarkable victories ever achieved in the New 
World. And this, not merely on account of the dis- 
parity of the forces, but of their unequal condition. 
For the Indians were in all their strength, while the 
Christians were wasted by disease, famine, and long- 
protracted sufferings ; without cannon or fire-arms, and 
deficient in the military apparatus which had so often 
struck terror into their barbarian foe, — deficient even 
in the terrors of a victorious name. But they had dis- 
cipline on their side, desperate resolve, and implicit 
confidence in their commander. That they should 
have triumphed against such odds furnishes an inference 
of the same kind as that established by the victories 
of the European over the semi-civilized hordes of Asia. 
Yet even here all must not be referred to superior 
discipline and tactics. For the battle would certainly 
have been lost had it not been for the fortunate death 
of the Indian general. And, although the selection of 
the victim may be called the result of calculation, yet 
it was by the most precarious chance that he was 
thrown in the way of the Spaniards. It is, indeed, one 
among many examples of the influence of fortune in 
determining the fate of military operations. The star 
of Cortes was in the ascendant. Had it been other- 
wise, not a Spaniard would have survived that day to 
tell the bloody tale of the battle of Otumba. 






On the following morning the army broke up its 
encampment at an early hour. The enemy does not 
seem to have made an attempt to rally. Clouds of 
skirmishers, however, were seen during the morning, 
keeping at a respectful distance, though occasionally 
venturing near enough to salute the Spaniards with a 
volley of missiles. 

On a rising ground they discovered a fountain, a 
blessing not too often met with in these arid regions, 
and gratefully commemorated by the Christians for the 
refreshment it afforded by its cool and abundant waters. 1 
A little farther on they descried the rude works which 
served as the bulwark and boundary of the Tlascalan 
territory. At the sight, the allies sent up a joyous 
shout of congratulation, in which the Spaniards heartily 

1 Is it not the same fountain of which Toribio makes honorable 
mention in his topographical account of the country? "Nace en 
Tlaxcala una fuente grande & la parte del Norte, cinco leguas de la 
principal ciudad ; nace en un pueblo que se llama Azumba, que en su 
lengua quiere decir cabesa, y asi es, porque esta fuente es cabeza y prin- 
cipio del mayor rio de los que entran en la mar del Sur, el cual entra 
en la mar por Zacatula." Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 16. 



39 1 

joined, as they felt they were soon to be on friendly 
and hospitable ground. 

But these feelings were speedily followed by others 
of a different nature ; and, as they drew nearer the 
territory, their minds were disturbed with the most 
painful apprehensions as to their reception by the 
people among whom they were bringing desolation and 
mourning, and who might so easily, if ill disposed, 
take advantage of their present crippled condition. 
"Thoughts like these," says Cortes, "weighed as 
heavily on my spirit as any which I ever experienced 
in going to battle with the Aztecs." 2 Still he put, as 
usual, a good face on the matter, and encouraged his 
men to confide in their allies, whose past conduct had 
afforded every ground for trusting to their fidelity in 
future. He cautioned them, however, as their own 
strength was so much impaired, to be most careful to 
give no umbrage or ground for jealousy to their high- 
spirited allies. "Be but on your guard," continued 
the intrepid general, "and we have still stout hearts 
and strong hands to carry us through the midst of 
them !" 3 With these anxious surmises, bidding adieu 
to the Aztec domain, the Christian army crossed the 
frontier, and once more trod the soil of the Republic. 

The first place at which they halted was the town of 

3 " El qual pensamiento, y sospecha nos puso en tanta afliccion, 
quanta trahiamos viniendo peleando con los de Culua." Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 149. 

3 " Y mas dixo, que tenia esperanca en Dios que los hallariamos 
buenos, y leales ; e que si otra cosa fuesse, lo que Dios no permita, 
que nos ban de tornar A andar los pufios con coracones fuertes, y 
bracos vigorosos, y que para esse fuessemos muy apercibidos." Bernal 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 



Huejotlipan, a place of about twelve or fifteen thousand 
inhabitants. 4 They were kindly greeted by the people, 
who came out to receive them, inviting the troops to 
their habitations, and administering all the relief of 
their simple hospitality. Yet this was not so disin- 
terested, according to some of the Spaniards, as to pre- 
vent their expecting in requital a share of the plunder 
taken in the late action. 5 Here the weary forces re- 
mained two or three days, when, the news of their 
arrival having reached the capital, not more than four 
or five leagues distant, the old chief Maxixca, their 
efficient friend on their former visit, and Xicotencatl, 
the young warrior who, it will be remembered, had 
commanded the troops of his nation in their bloody 
encounters with the Spaniards, came with a numerous 
concourse of the citizens to welcome the fugitives to 
Tlascala. Maxixca, cordially embracing the Spanish 
commander, testified the deepest sympathy for his mis- 
fortunes. That the white men could so long have 
withstood the confederated power of the Aztecs was 
proof enough of their marvellous prowess. " We have 
made common cause together," said the lord of Tlas- 
cala, "and we have common injuries to avenge; and, 
come weal or come woe, be assured we will prove true 
and loyal friends and stand by you to the death." 6 

4 Called Gualipan by Cortes. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 149.) An 
Aztec would have found it hard to trace the route of his enemies by 
their itineraries. 

5 Ibid., ubi supra. — Thoan Cano, however, one of the army, denies 
this, and asserts that the natives received them like their children, and 
would take no recompense. (See Appendix, Part 2, No. 11.) 

6 " Y que tubiesse por cierto, que me serian muy cierlos, y verdaderos 
Amigos, hasta la muerte." Ibid., p. 150. 



This cordial assurance and sympathy, from one who 
exercised a control over the public counsels beyond any 
other ruler, effectually dispelled the doubts that lingered 
in the mind of Cortes. He readily accepted his in- 
vitation to continue his march at once to the capital, 
where he would find so much better accommodations 
for his army than in a small town on the frontier. The 
sick and wounded, placed in hammocks, were borne 
on the shoulders of the friendly natives ; and, as the 
troops drew near the city, the inhabitants came flock- 
ing out in crowds to meet them, rending the air with 
joyous acclamations and wild bursts of their rude In- 
dian minstrelsy. Amidst the general jubilee, however, 
were heard sounds of wailing and sad lament, as some 
unhappy relative or friend, looking earnestly into the 
diminished files of their countrymen, sought in vain 
for some dear and familiar countenance, and, as they 
turned disappointed away, gave utterance to their sor- 
row in tones that touched the heart of every soldier 
in the army. With these mingled accompaniments of 
joy and woe, — the motley web of human life, — the 
way-worn columns of Cortes at length re-entered the 
republican capital. 7 

The general and his suite were lodged in the rude 

7 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
quista, ubi supra. — " Sobrevinieron las mugeres Tlascaltecas, y todas 
puestas de luto, y llorando A donde estaban los Espanoles, las unas 
preguntaban por sus maridos, las otras por sus hijos y hermanos, las 
otras por sus parientes que habian ido con los Espanoles, y quedaban 
todos alia muertos : no es menos, sino que de esto llanto causo gran 
sentimiento en el corazon del Capitan, y de todos los Espanoles, y 
& procure lo mejor que pudo consolarles por medio de sus Inte>- 
pretes." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 28. 


but spacious palace of Maxixca. The rest of the army 
took up their quarters in the district over which the 
Tlascalan lord presided. Here they continued several 
weeks, until, by the attentions of the hospitable citi- 
zens, and such medical treatment as their humble 
science could supply, the wounds of the soldiers were 
healed, and they recovered from the debility to which 
they had been reduced by their long and unparalleled 
sufferings. Cortes was one of those who suffered 
severely. He lost the use of two of the fingers of his 
left hand. 8 He had received, besides, two injuries on 
the head ; one of which was so much exasperated by 
his subsequent fatigues and excitement of mind that it 
assumed an alarming appearance. A part of the bone 
was obliged to be removed. 9 A fever ensued, and for 
several days the hero who had braved danger and 
death in their most terrible forms lay stretched on his 
bed, as helpless as an infant. His excellent constitu- 
tion, however, got the better of disease, and he was at 
length once more enabled to resume his customary 
activity. The Spaniards, with politic generosity, re- 
quited the hospitality of their hosts by sharing with 

8 " Vo assimismo quede manco de dos dedos de la mano izquierda" 
— is Cortes' own expression in his letter to the emperor. (Rel. Seg., 
ap. Lorenzana, p. 152.) Don Thoan Cano, however, whose sympa- 
thies — from his Indian alliance, perhaps — seem to have been quite as 
much with the Aztecs as with his own countrymen, assured Oviedo, 
who was lamenting the general's loss, that he might spare his regrets, 
since Cortes had as many fingers on his hand at that hour as when 
he came from Castile. (See Appendix, Part 2, No. 11.) May not 
the word manco, in his letter, be rendered by " maimed"? 

9 " Hirieron A Cortes con Honda tan mal, que se le pasmo la 
Cabeca, 6 porque no le curaron bien, sacdndole Cascos, 6 por el 
demasiado trabajo que paso." Gomara, Cronica, cap. no. 



them the spoils of their recent victory, and Cort£s 
especially rejoiced the heart of Maxixca by presenting 
him with the military trophy which he had won from 
the Indian commander. 10 

But while the Spaniards were thus recruiting their 
health and spirits under the friendly treatment of their 
allies, and recovering the confidence and tranquillity 
of mind which had sunk under their hard reverses, 
they received tidings, from time to time, which showed 
that their late disaster had not been confined to the 
Mexican capital. On his descent from Mexico to en- 
counter Narvaez, Cortes had brought with him a quan- 
tity of gold, which he left for safe keeping at Tlascala. 
To this was added a considerable sum collected by the 
unfortunate Velasquez de Leon in his expedition to the 
coast, as well as contributions from other sources. 
From the unquiet state of the capital, the general 
thought it best, on his return there, still to leave the 
treasure under the care of a number of invalid soldiers, 
who, when in marching condition, were to rejoin him 
in Mexico. A party from Vera Cruz, consisting of 
five horsemen and forty foot, had since arrived at Tlas- 
cala, and, taking charge of the invalids and treasure, 
undertook to escort them to the capital. He now 
learned that they had been intercepted on the route 
and all cut off, with the entire loss of the treasure. 
Twelve other soldiers, marching in the same direction, 
had been massacred in the neighboring province of 
Tepeaca; and accounts continually arrived of some 
unfortunate Castilian, who, presuming on the respect 

10 Herrera, Hist, general, dec 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. — Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 


hitherto shown to his countrymen, and ignorant of the 
disasters in the capital, had fallen a victim to the fury 
of the enemy." 

These dismal tidings filled the mind of Cortes with 
gloomy apprehensions for the fate of the settlement at 
Villa Rica, — the last stay of their hopes. He despatched 
a trusty messenger, at once, to that place, and had the 
inexpressible satisfaction to receive a letter in return 
from the commander of the garrison, acquainting him 
with the safety of the colony and its friendly relations 
with the neighboring Totonacs. It was the best guar- 
antee of the fidelity of the latter, that they had offended 
the Mexicans too deeply to be forgiven. 

While the affairs of Cortes wore so gloomy an aspect 
without, he had to experience an annoyance scarcely 
less serious from the discontents of his followers. 
Many of them had fancied that their late appalling 
reverses would put an end to the expedition, or, at 
least, postpone all thoughts of resuming it for the 
present. But they knew little of Cortes who reasoned 
thus. Even while tossing on his bed of sickness, he 
was ripening in his mind fresh schemes for retrieving 
his honor, and for recovering the empire which had 
been lost more by another's rashness than his own. 
This was apparent, as he became convalescent, from 
the new regulations he made respecting the army, as 

11 Rel. Seg de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 150. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15. — Herrera gives the following inscription, 
cut on the bark of a tree by some of these unfortunate Spaniards : 
" By this road passed Juan Juste and his wretched companions, who 
■were so much pinched by hunger that they were obliged to give a 
solid bar of gold, weighing eight hundred ducats, for a few cakes of 
maize bread." Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. 



well as from the orders sent to Vera Cruz for fresh 

The knowledge of all this occasioned much dis- 
quietude to the disaffected soldiers. They were, for the 
most part, the ancient followers of Narvaez, on whom, 
as we have seen, the brunt of the war had fallen the 
heaviest. Many of them possessed property in the 
Islands, and had embarked on this expedition chiefly 
from the desire of increasing it. But they had gath- 
ered neither gold nor glory in Mexico. Their present 
service filled them only with disgust ; and the few, 
comparatively, who had been so fortunate as to sur- 
vive, languished to return to their rich mines and 
pleasant farms in Cuba, bitterly cursing the day when 
they had left them. 

Finding their complaints little heeded by the general, 
they prepared a written remonstrance, in which they 
made their demand more formally. They represented 
the rashness of persisting in the enterprise in his present 
impoverished state, without arms or ammunition, almost 
without men ; and this, too, against a powerful enemy, 
who had been more than a match for him with all the 
strength of his late resources. It was madness to think 
of it. The attempt would bring them all to the sacri- 
fice-block. Their only course was to continue their 
march to Vera Cruz. Every hour of delay might be 
fatal. The garrison in that place might be overwhelmed 
from want of strength to defend itself; and thus their 
last hope would be annihilated. But, once there, they 
might wait in comparative security for such reinforce- 
ments as would join them from abroad ; while in case 
of failure they could the more easily make their escape. 
Vol. II. 34 


They concluded with insisting on being permitted to 
return at once to the port of Villa Rica. This peti- 
tion, or rather remonstrance, was signed by all the 
disaffected soldiers, and, after being formally attested 
by the royal notary, was presented to Cortes." 

It was a trying circumstance for him. What touched 
him most nearly was to find the name of his friend the 
secretary Duero, to whose good offices he had chiefly 
owed his command, at the head of the paper. He 
was not, however, to be shaken from his purpose for a 
moment ; and, while all outward resources seemed to 
be fading away, and his own friends faltered, or failed 
him, he was still true to himself. He knew that to 
retreat to Vera Cruz would be to abandon the enter- 
prise. Once there, his army would soon find a pretext 
and a way for breaking up and returning to the Islands. 
All his ambitious schemes would be blasted. The great 
prize, already once in his grasp, would then be lost 
forever. He would be a ruined man. 

In his celebrated letter to Charles the Fifth, he says 
that, in reflecting on his position, he felt the truth of 
the old adage, " that fortune favors the brave. The 
Spaniards were the followers of the Cross ; and, trust- 
ing in the infinite goodness and mercy of God, he 
could not believe that He would suffer them and his 
own good cause thus to perish among the heathen. 13 

12 One is reminded of the similar remonstrance made by Alexander's 
soldiers to him on reaching the Hystaspis, — but attended with more 
success ; as, indeed, was reasonable. For Alexander continued to 
advance from the ambition of indefinite conquest, while Cortes was 
only bent on carrying out his original enterprise. What was madness 
in the one was heroism in the other. 

J 3 " Acorddndome, que siempre i. los osados ayuda la fortuna, y 



He was resolved, therefore, not to descend to the coast, 
but at all hazards to retrace his steps and beard the 
enemy again in his capital." 

It was in the same resolute tone that he answered 
his discontented followers. 14 He urged every argument 
which could touch their pride or honor as cavaliers. 
He appealed to that ancient Castilian valor which had 
never been known to falter before an enemy; besought 
them not to discredit the great deeds which had made 
their name ring throughout Europe ; not to leave the 
emprise half achieved, for others more daring and ad- 
venturous to finish. How could they with any honor, 
he asked, desert their allies whom they had involved 
in the war, and leave them unprotected to the ven- 
geance of the Aztecs? To retreat but a single step 
towards Villa Rica would be to proclaim their own 
weakness. It would dishearten their friends and give 
confidence to their foes. He implored them to resume 
the confidence in him which they had ever showed, 
and to reflect that, if they had recently met with re- 
verses, he had up to that point accomplished all, and 
more than all, that he had promised. It would be 
easy now to retrieve their losses, if they would have 
patience and abide in this friendly land until the 

que eramos Christianos y confiando en la grandissima Bondad, y 
Misericordia de Dios, que no permitiria, que del todo pereciessemos, 
y se perdiesse tanta, y tan noble Tierra." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, 
p. 152. 

»4 This reply, exclaims Oviedo, showed a man of unconquerable 
spirit and high destinies : " Pareceme que la respuesta que & esto les 
dio Hernando Cortes, e lo que hizo en ello, fue vna cosa de animo 
invencible, e de varon de mucha suerte e valor." Hist, de las Ind., 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 15. 


reinforcements, which would be ready to come in at 
his call, should enable them to act on the offensive. If, 
however, there were any so insensible to the motives 
which touch a brave man's heart, as to prefer ease at 
home to the glory of this great achievement, he would 
not stand in their way. Let them go, in God's name. 
Let them leave their general in his extremity. He 
should feel stronger in the service of a few brave 
spirits than if surrounded by a host of the false or the 
faint-hearted. 15 

The disaffected party, as already noticed, was chiefly 
drawn from the troops of Narvaez. When the general's 
own veterans heard this appeal, 16 their blood warmed 
with indignation at the thoughts of abandoning him or 
the cause at such a crisis. They pledged themselves 
to stand by him to the last ) and the malecontents, 
silenced, if not convinced, by this generous expression 
of sentiment from their comrades, consented to post- 
pone their departure for the present, under the assur- 
ance that no obstacle would be thrown in their way 
when a more favorable season should present itself.* 7 

•5 "6 no me hable ninguno en otra cosa; y el que desta opinion 
no estubiere vayase en buen hora, que mas holgare de quedar con los 
pocos y osados, que en compafiia de muchos, ni de ninguno cobarde, 
ni desacordado de su propia honra." Hist, de las Ind., MS., loc. cit. 

16 Oviedo has expanded the harangue of Cortes into several pages, 
in the course of which the orator quotes Xenophon, and borrows 
largely from the old Jewish history, a style of eloquence savoring 
much more of the closet than the camp. Cortes was no pedant, and 
his soldiers were no scholars. 

*7 For the account of this turbulent transaction, see Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 129, — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 
p. 152, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15, — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap, 112, 113, — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 


Scarcely was this difficulty adjusted, when Cortes was 
menaced with one more serious, in the jealousy spring- 
ing up between his soldiers and their Indian allies. Not- 
withstanding the demonstrations of regard by Maxixca 
and his immediate followers, there were others of the 
nation who looked with an evil eye on their guests, for 
the calamities in which they had involved them ; and 
they tauntingly asked if, in addition to this, they were 
now to be burdened by the presence and maintenance 
of the strangers. These sallies of discontent were not so 
secret as altogether to escape the ears of the Spaniards, 
in whom they occasioned no little disquietude. They 
proceeded for the most part, it is true, from persons 
of little consideration, since the four great chiefs of the 
republic appear to have been steadily secured to the in- 
terests of Cortes. But they derived some importance 
from the countenance of the warlike Xicotencatl, in 
whose bosom still lingered the embers of that implaca- 
ble hostility which he had displayed so courageously on 
the field of battle ; and sparkles of this fiery temper 
occasionally gleamed forth in the intimate intercourse 
into which he was now reluctantly brought with his 
ancient opponents. 

Cortes, who saw with alarm the growing feeling of 
estrangement which must sap the very foundations on 
which he was to rest the lever for future operations, 
employed every argument which suggested itself, to 
restore the confidence of his own men. He reminded 

14. — Diaz is exceedingly wroth with the chaplain Gomara for not dis- 
criminating between the old soldiers and the levies of Narvaez, whom 
he involves equally in the sin of rebellion. The captain's own version 
seems a fair one, and I have followed it, therefore, in the text. 



them of the good services they had uniformly received 
from the great body of the nation. They had a suf- 
ficient pledge of the future constancy of the Tlascalans 
in their long-cherished hatred of the Aztecs, which the 
recent disasters they had suffered from the same quarter 
could serve only to sharpen. And he urged, with 
much force, that if any evil designs had been meditated 
by them against the Spaniards the Tlascalans would, 
doubtless, have taken advantage of their late disabled 
condition, and not waited till they had recovered their 
strength and means of resistance. 18 

While Cortes was thus endeavoring, with somewhat 
doubtful success, to stifle his own apprehensions, as 
well as those in the bosoms of his followers, an event 
occurred which happily brought the affair to an issue, 
and permanently settled the relations in which the two 
parties were to stand to each other. This will make it 
necessary to notice some events which had occurred in 
Mexico since the expulsion of the Spaniards. 

On Montezuma's death, his brother, Cuitlahua, lord 
of Iztapalapan, conformably to the usage regulating the 
descent of the Aztec crown, was chosen to succeed him. 
He was an active prince, of large experience in mili- 
tary affairs, and, by the strength of his character, was 
well fitted to sustain the tottering fortunes of the mon- 
archy. He appears, moreover, to have been a man of 
liberal, and what may be called enlightened, taste, to 
judge from the beautiful gardens which he had filled 
with rare exotics and which so much attracted the 

18 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15. — Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 14. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espaiia, 
MS., lib. 12, cap. 29. 



admiration of the Spaniards in his city of Iztapalapan. 
Unlike his predecessor, he held the white men in 
detestation, and had, probably, the satisfaction of 
celebrating his own coronation by the sacrifice of 
many of them. From the moment of his release from 
the Spanish quarters, where he had been detained by 
Cortes, he entered into the patriotic movements of his 
people. It was he who conducted the assaults both in 
the streets of the city and on the " Melancholy Night;" 
and it was at his instigation that the powerful force had 
been assembled to dispute the passage of the Spaniards 
in the Vale of Otumba. 19 

Since the evacuation of the capital, he had been 
busily occupied in repairing the mischief it had re- 
ceived, — restoring the buildings and the bridges and 
putting it in the best posture of defence. He had 
endeavored to improve the discipline and arms of his 
troops. He introduced the long spear among them, 
and, by attaching the sword-blades taken from the 
Christians to long poles, contrived a weapon that 
should be formidable against the cavalry. He sum- 
moned his vassals, far and near, to hold themselves in 
readiness to march to the relief of the capital, if neces- 
sary, and, the better to secure their good will, relieved 
them from some of the burdens usually laid on them. 
But he was now to experience the instability of a 

'9 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 166. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, 
MS., lib. 12, cap. 27, 29. — Or, rather, it was " at the instigation of 
the great Devil, the captain of all the devils, called Satan, who regu- 
lated every thing in New Spain by his free will and pleasure, before 
the coming of the Spaniards," according to Father Sahagun, who 
begins his chapter with this eloquent exordium. 



government which rested not on love, but on fear. 
The vassals in the neighborhood of the Valley remained 
true to their allegiance ; but others held themselves 
aloof, uncertain what course to adopt ; while others, 
again, in the more distant provinces, refused obedience 
altogether, considering this a favorable moment for 
throwing off the yoke which had so long galled them. 20 

In this emergency, the government sent a deputa- 
tion to its ancient enemies the Tlascalans. It con- 
sisted of six Aztec nobles, bearing a present of cotton 
cloth, salt, and other articles rarely seen, of late years, 
in the republic. The lords of the state, astonished at 
this unprecedented act of condescension in their ancient 
foe, called the council or senate of the great chiefs 
together, to give the envoys audience. 

Before this body the Aztecs stated the purpose of 
their mission. They invited the Tlascalans to bury all 
past grievances in oblivion, and to enter into a treaty 
with them. All the nations of Anahuac should make 
common cause in defence of their country against the 
white men. The Tlascalans would bring down on 
their own heads the wrath of the gods, if they longer 
harbored the strangers who had violated and destroyed 
their temples. If they counted on the support and 
friendship of their guests, let them take warning from 
the fate of Mexico, which had received them kindly 
within its walls, and which, in return, they had filled 
with blood and ashes. They conjured them, by their 
reverence for their common religion, not to suffer the 

20 Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. — Sahagun, Hist, de 
Nueva- Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, 
lib. 10, cap. 19. 



white men, disabled as they now were, to escape from 
their hands, but to sacrifice them at once to the gods, 
whose temples they had profaned. In that event, they 
proffered them their alliance, and the renewal of that 
friendly traffic which would restore to the republic the 
possession of the comforts and luxuries of which it 
had been so long deprived. 

The proposals of the ambassadors produced different 
effects on their audience. Xicotencatl was for em- 
bracing them at once. Far better was it, he said, to 
unite with their kindred, with those who held their 
own language, their faith and usages, than to throw 
themselves into the arms of the fierce strangers, who, 
however they might talk of religion, worshipped no 
god but gold. This opinion was followed by that of 
the younger warriors, who readily caught the fire of his 
enthusiasm. But the elder chiefs, especially his blind 
old father, one of the four rulers of the state, who 
seem to have been all heartily in the interests of the 
Spaniards, and one of them, Maxixca, their stanch 
friend, strongly expressed their aversion to the pro- 
posed alliance with the Aztecs. They were always the 
same, said the latter, — fair in speech, and false in heart. 
They now proffered friendship to the Tlascalans. But 
it was fear which drove them to it, and, when that fear 
was removed, they would return to their old hostility. 
Who was it, but these insidious foes, that had so long 
deprived the country of the very necessaries of life, of 
which they were now so lavish in their offers ? Was it 
not owing to the white men that the nation at length 
possessed them ? Yet they were called on to sacrifice 
the white men to the gods ! — the warriors who, after 


fighting the battles of the Tlascalans, now threw them- 
selves on their hospitality. But the gods abhorred 
perfidy. And were not their guests the very beings 
whose coming had been so long predicted by the ora- 
cles? "Let us avail ourselves of it," he concluded, 
" and unite and make common cause with them, until 
we have humbled our haughty enemy. ' ' 

This discourse provoked a sharp rejoinder from 
Xicotencatl, till the passion of the elder chieftain got 
the better of his patience, and, substituting force for 
argument, he thrust his younger antagonist, with some 
violence, from the council-chamber. A proceeding so 
contrary to the usual decorum of Indian debate aston- 
ished the assembly. But, far from bringing censure on 
its author, it effectually silenced opposition. Even the 
hot-headed followers of Xicotencatl shrunk from sup- 
porting a leader who had incurred such a mark of con- 
temptuous displeasure from the ruler whom they most 
venerated. His own father openly condemned him ; 
and the patriotic young warrior, gifted with a truer 
foresight into futurity than his countrymen, was left 
without support in the council, as he had formerly 
been on the field of battle. The proffered alliance of 
the Mexicans was unanimously rejected ; and the en- 
voys, fearing that even the sacred character with which 
they were invested might not protect them from vio- 
lence, made their escape secretly from the capital. 21 

. 2I The proceedings in the Tlascalan senate are reported in more or 
less detail, but substantially alike, by Camargo, Hist. deTlascala, MS., 
— Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29, — Herrera, 
Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 12, cap. 14. — See, also, Bernal Diaz, Hist, de 
la Conquista, cap. 129, — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 111. 



The result of the conference was of the last impor- 
tance to the Spaniards, who, in their present crippled 
condition, especially if v taken unawares, would have 
been, probably, at the mercy of the Tlascalans. At all 
events, the union of these latter with the Aztecs would 
have settled the fate of the expedition ; since, in the 
poverty of his own resources, it was only by adroitly 
playing off one part of the Indian population against 
the other that Cortes could ultimately hope for success. 







The Spanish commander, reassured by the result of 
the deliberations in the Tlascalan senate, now resolved 
on active operations, as the best means of dissipating 
the spirit of faction and discontent inevitably fostered 
by a life of idleness. He proposed to exercise his 
troops, at first, against some of the neighboring tribes 
who had laid violent hands on such of the Spaniards 
as, confiding in their friendly spirit, had passed through 
their territories. Among these were the Tepeacans, a 
people often engaged in hostility with the Tlascalans, 
and who, as mentioned in a preceding chapter, had 
lately massacred twelve Spaniards in their march to 
the capital. An expedition against them would receive 
the ready support of his allies, and would assert the 
dignity of the Spanish name, much dimmed in the 
estimation of the natives by the late disasters. 

The Tepeacans were a powerful tribe of the same 
primitive stock as the Aztecs, to whom they acknowl- 
edged allegiance. They had transferred this to the 
Spaniards, on their first march into the country, in- 
timidated by the bloody defeats of their Tlascalan 



neighbors. But, since the troubles in the capital, they 
had again submitted to the Aztec sceptre. Their capi- 
tal, now a petty village, was a flourishing city at the 
time of the Conquest, situated in the fruitful plains 
that stretch far away towards the base of Orizaba. 1 
The province contained, moreover, several towns of 
considerable size, filled with a bold and warlike popu- 

As these Indians had once acknowledged the authority 
of Castile, Cortes and his officers regarded their pres- 
ent conduct in the light of rebellion, and, in a council 
of war, it was decided that those engaged in the late 
massacre had fairly incurred the doom of slavery.* 
Before proceeding against them, however, the general 
sent a summons requiring their submission, and offer- 
ing full pardon for the past, but, in case of refusal, 
menacing them with the severest retribution. To this 
the Indians, now in arms, returned a contemptuous 
answer, challenging the Spaniards to meet them in 
fight, as they were in want of victims for their sacrifices. 

Cortes, without further delay, put himself at the 
head of his small corps of Spaniards and a large re- 
inforcement of Tlascalan warriors. They were led by 
the younger Xicotencatl, who now appeared willing to 
bury his recent animosity, and desirous to take a lesson 

1 The Indian name of the capital, — the same as that of the province, 
— Tepejacac, was corrupted by the Spaniards into Tepeaca. It must 
be admitted to have gained by the corruption. 

2 " Y como aquello vio Cortes, comunicolo con todos nuestros 
Capitanes, y soldados : y fue acordado, que se hiziesse vn auto 
por ante Escriuano, que diesse fe de todo lo passado, y que se 
diessen por esclauos." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

Vol. II.— s 35 


in war under the chief who had so often foiled him in 
the field. 3 

The Tepeacans received their enemy on their borders. 
A bloody battle followed, in which the Spanish horse 
were somewhat embarrassed by the tall maize that 
covered part of the plain. They were successful in the 
end, and the Tepeacans, after holding their ground 
like good warriors, were at length routed with great 
slaughter. A second engagement, which took place a 
few days after, was followed by like decisive results ; 
and the victorious Spaniards with their allies, march- 
ing straightway on the city of Tepeaca, entered it in 
triumph. 4 No further resistance was attempted by the 
enemy, and the whole province, to avoid further 
calamities, eagerly tendered its submission. Cortes, 
however, inflicted the meditated chastisement on the 
places implicated in the massacre. The inhabitants 
were branded with a hot iron as slaves, and, after the 
royal fifth had been reserved, were distributed between 
his own men and the allies. 5 The Spaniards were 
familiar with the system of repartimientos established 

3 The chroniclers estimate his army at 50,000 warriors ; one-half, 
according to Toribio, of the disposable military force of the republic. 
" De la cual (Tlascala), como ya tengo dicho, solian salir cien mil 
hombres de pelea." Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 16. 

* " That night," says the credulous Herrera, speaking of the carouse 
that followed one of their victories, " the Indian allies had a grand 
supper of legs and arms ; for, besides an incredible number of roasts 
on wooden spits, they had fifty thousand pots of stewed human 
flesh"! (Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15.) Such a banquet 
would not have smelt savory in the nostrils of Cortes. 

5 " Y alii hizieron hazer el hierro con que se auian de herrar los que 
se tomauan por esclauos, que era una G., que quiere decir guerra." 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 130. 


in the Islands ; but this was the first example of slavery 
in New Spain.* It was justified, in the opinion of the 
general and his military casuists, by the aggravated 
offences of the party. The sentence, however, was not 
countenanced by the crown, 6 which, as the colonial 
legislation abundantly shows, was ever at issue with the 
craving and mercenary spirit of the colonist. 

Satisfied with this display of his vengeance, Cortes 
now established his headquarters at Tepeaca, which, 
situated in a cultivated country, afforded easy means 
for maintaining an army, while its position on the 
Mexican frontier made it a good point d' ' appui for 
future operations. 

The Aztec government, since it had learned the 
issue of its negotiations at Tlascala, had been diligent 
in fortifying its frontier in that quarter. The garrisons 
usually maintained there were strengthened, and large 
bodies of men were marched in the same direction, 
with orders to occupy the strong positions on the bor- 
ders. The conduct of these troops was in their usual 
style of arrogance and extortion, and greatly disgusted 
the inhabitants of the country. 

6 Solis, Conquista, lib. 5, cap. 3. 

* [It may have been the first instance of natives being reduced to 
slavery by the Spaniards, but female slaves at least had been given 
to them on several previous occasions by the Mexican chiefs. The 
present case has also no connection with the system of repartimientos, 
by which, after the conquest was effected, the soil and its inhabitants 
were divided among the new possessors. In the case of the Tepeacans, 
no attempt was made to enslave the adult males, whose services were 
not needed, and who would have brought only embarrassment to their 
captors. See Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 135. — Ed.] 


Among the places thus garrisoned by the Aztecs was 
Quauhquechollan, 7 a city containing thirty thousand 
inhabitants, according to the historians, and lying to 
the southwest twelve leagues or more from the Spanish 
quarters. It stood at the extremity of a deep valley, 
resting against a bold range of hills, or rather moun- 
tains, and flanked by two rivers with exceedingly high 
and precipitous banks. The only avenue by which the 
town could be easily approached was protected by a 
stone wall more than twenty feet high and of great 
thickness. 8 Into this place, thus strongly defended by 
art as well as by nature, the Aztec emperor had thrown 
a garrison of several thousand warriors, while a much 
more formidable force occupied the heights command- 
ing the city. 

The cacique of this strong post, impatient of the 
Mexican yoke, sent to Cortes, inviting him to march 
to his relief, and promising a co-operation of the citi- 
zens in an assault on the Aztec quarters. The general 
eagerly embraced the proposal, and detached Cristoval 
de Olid, with two hundred Spaniards and a strong body 
of Tlascalans, to support the friendly cacique. 9 On 
the way, Olid was joined by many volunteers from the 

7 Called by the Spaniards Huacachula, and spelt with every con- 
ceivable diversity by the old writers, who may be excused for stum- 
bling over such a confusion of consonants. 

8 " Y toda la Ciudad esta cercada de muy fuerte Muro de cal y 
canto, tan alto, corao quatro estados por de fuera de la Ciudad : e 
por de dentro esta casi igual con el suelo. Y por toda la Muralla va 
su petril, tan alto, como medio estado, para pelear, tiene quatro en- 
tradas, tan anchas.comounopuedeentraraCaballo." Rel. Seg.,p. 162. 

9 This cavalier's name is usually spelt Olid by the chroniclers. In 
a copy of his own signature I find it written Oli. 



Indian city and from the neighboring capital of Cho- 
lula, all equally pressing their services. The number 
and eagerness of these auxiliaries excited suspicions in 
the bosom of the cavalier. They were strengthened 
by the surmises of the soldiers of Narvaez, whose imagi- 
nations were still haunted, it seems, by the horrors of 
the noche triste, and who saw in the friendly alacrity 
of their new allies evidence of an insidious understand- 
ing with the Aztecs. Olid, catching this distrust, made 
a countermarch on Cholula, where he seized the sus- 
pected chiefs, who had been most forward in offering 
their services, and sent them under a strong guard to 

The general, after a careful examination, was satis- 
fied of the integrity of the suspected parties. He, 
expressing his deep regret at the treatment they had 
received, made them such amends as he could by liberal 
presents, and, as he now saw the impropriety of com- 
mitting an affair of such importance to other hands, 
put himself at the head of his remaining force and 
effected a junction with his officer in Cholula. 

He had arranged with the cacique of the city against 
which he was marching, that on the appearance of the 
Spaniards the inhabitants should rise on the garrison. 
Everything succeeded as he had planned. No sooner 
had the Christian battalions defiled on the plain before 
the town, than the inhabitants attacked the garrison 
with the utmost fury. The latter, abandoning the 
outer defences of the place, retreated to their own 
quarters in the principal teocalli, where they maintained 
a hard struggle with their adversaries. In the heat of 
it, Cortes, at the head of his little body of horse, rode 



into the place, and directed the assault in person. The 
Aztecs made a fierce defence. But, fresh troops con- 
stantly arriving to support the assailants, the works 
were stormed, and every one of the garrison was put 
to the sword. 10 

The Mexican forces, meanwhile, stationed on the 
neighboring eminences, had marched down to the 
support of their countrymen in the town, and formed 
in order of battle in the suburbs, where they were en- 
countered by the Tlascalan levies. " They mustered," 
says Cortes, speaking of the enemy, "at least thirty 
thousand men ; and it was a brave sight for the eye to 
look on, — such a beautiful array of warriors glistening 
with gold and jewels and variegated feather-work."" 
The action was well contested between the two Indian 
armies. The suburbs were set on fire, and, in the midst 
of the flames, Cortes and his squadrons, rushing on the 
enemy, at length broke their array, and compelled 
them to fall back in disorder into the narrow gorge of 
the mountain, from which they had lately descended. 
The pass was rough and precipitous. Spaniards and 
Tlascalans followed close in the rear, and the light 
troops, scaling the high wall of the valley, poured 
down on the enemy's flanks. The heat was intense, 
and both parties were so much exhausted by their efforts 

10 " I should have been very glad to have taken some alive," says 
Cortes. " who could have informed me of what was going on in the 
great city, and who had been lord there since the death of Monte- 
zuma. But I succeeded in saving only one ; and he was more dead 
than alive." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 159. 

" "Yd ver que cosa era aquella, los quales eran mas de treinta mil 
Hombres, y la mas liicida Gente, que hemos visto, porque trahian 
muchas Joyas de Oro, y Plata, y Plumajes." Ibid., p. 160. 



that it was with difficulty, says the chronicler, that 
the one could pursue, or the other fly. 12 They were 
not too weary, however, to slay. The Mexicans were 
routed with terrible slaughter. They found no pity 
from their Indian foes, who had a long account of in- 
juries to settle with them. Some few sought refuge by 
flying higher up into the fastnesses of the sierra. They 
were followed by their indefatigable enemy, until, on 
the bald summit of the ridge, they reached the Mex- 
ican encampment. It covered a wide tract of ground. 
Various utensils, ornamented dresses, and articles of 
luxury, were scattered round, and the number of 
slaves in attendance showed the barbaric pomp with 
which the nobles of Mexico went to their campaigns. 13 
It was a rich booty for the victors, who spread over 
the deserted camp, and loaded themselves with the 
spoil, until the gathering darkness warned them to 
descend. 14 

12 " Alcanzando muchos por una Cuesta arriba muy agra ; y tal, 
que quando acabamos de encumbrar la Sierra, ni los Enemigos, ni 
nosotros podiamos ir atras, ni adelante : e assi caieron muchos de ellos 
muertos, y ahogados de la calor, sin herida ninguna." Rel. Seg. de 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 160. 

'3 " Porque demas de la Gente de Guerra, tenian mucho aparato de 
Servidores, y fornecimiento para su Real." Ibid., p. 160. 

M The story of the capture of this strong post is told very differ- 
ently by Captain Diaz. According to him, Olid, when he had fallen 
back on Cholula, in consequence of the refusal of his men to advance, 
under the strong suspicion which they entertained of some foul prac- 
tice from their allies, received such a stinging rebuke from Cortes that 
he compelled his troops to resume their march, and, attacking the 
enemy " with the fury of a tiger," totally routed them. (Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 132.) But this version of the affair is not endorsed, 
so far as I am aware, by any contemporary. Cortes is so compen- 
dious in his report that it is often necessary to supply the omissions with 


Cortes followed up the blow by assaulting the strong 
town of Itzocan, held also by a Mexican garrison, and 
situated in the depths of a green valley watered by 
artificial canals and smiling in all the rich abundance of 
this fruitful region of the plateau. 13 The place, though 
stoutly defended, was stormed and carried ; the Aztecs 
were driven across a river which ran below the town, 
and, although the light bridges that traversed it were 
broken down in the flight, whether by design or accident, 
the Spaniards, fording and swimming the stream as they 
could, found their way to the opposite bank, following 
up the chase with the eagerness of bloodhounds. Here, 
too, the booty was great ; and the Indian auxiliaries 
flocked by thousands to the banners of the chief who 
so surely led them on to victory and plunder. 16 

Soon afterwards, Cortes returned to his headquarters 
at Tepeaca. Thence he detached his officers on expe- 

the details of other writers. But, where he is positive in his state- 
ments, — unless there be some reason to suspect a bias, — his practice 
of writing on the spot, and the peculiar facilities for information 
afforded by his position, make him decidedly the best authority. 

*s Cortes, with an eye less sensible to the picturesque than his great 
predecessor in the track of discovery, Columbus, was full as quick in 
detecting the capabilities of the soil. " Tiene un Valle redondo muy 
fertil de Frutas, y Algodon, que en ninguna parte de los Puertos 
arriba se hace por la gran frialdad ; y alii es Tierra caliente, y causalo, 
que esta muy abrigada de Sierras ; todo este Valle se riega por muy 
buenas Azequias, que tienen muy bien sacadas, y concertadas." Rel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 164, 165. 

16 So numerous, according to Cortes, that they covered hill and 
dale, as far as the eye could reach, mustering more than a hundred 
and twenty thousand strong! (Ibid., p. 162.) When the Conquerors 
attempt anything like a precise numeration, it will be as safe to sub- 
stitute " a multitude," " a great force," etc., trusting the amount to the 
reader's own imagination. 



ditions which were usually successful. Sandoval, in 
particular, marched against a large body of the enemy 
lying between the camp and Vera Cruz, defeated them 
in two decisive battles, and thus restored the commu- 
nications with the port. 

The result of these operations was the reduction of 
that populous and cultivated territory which lies be- 
tween the great volcan, on the west, and the mighty 
skirts of Orizaba, on the east. Many places, also, in 
the neighboring province of Mixtecapan acknowledged 
the authority of the Spaniards, and others from the 
remote region of Oaxaca sent to claim their protection. 
The conduct of Cortes towards his allies had gained 
him great credit for disinterestedness and equity. The 
Indian cities in the adjacent territory appealed to him, 
as their umpire, in their differences with one another, 
and cases of disputed succession in their governments 
were referred to his arbitration. By his discreet and 
moderate policy he insensibly acquired an ascendency 
over their counsels which had been denied to the fero- 
cious Aztec. His authority extended wider and wider 
every day ; and a new empire grew up in the very 
heart of the land, forming a counterpoise to the colossal 
power which had so long overshadowed it. 17 

Cortes now felt himself strong enough to put in exe- 
cution the plans for recovering the capital, over which 

'7 For the hostilities with the Indian tribes, noticed in the preceding 
pages, see, in addition to the Letter of Cortes, so often cited, Oviedo, 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15, — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 
2, lib. io, cap.- 15, 16, — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 90, — 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 130, 132, 134, — Gomara, 
Cronica, cap. 114-117, — P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6, — 
Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 


he had been brooding ever since the hour of his expul- 
sion. He had greatly undervalued the resources of the 
Aztec monarchy. He was now aware, from bitter ex- 
perience, that, to vanquish it, his own forces, and all he 
could hope to muster, would be incompetent, without 
a very extensive support from the Indians themselves. 
A large army would, moreover, require large supplies 
for its maintenance, and these could not be regularly 
obtained, during a protracted siege, without the friendly 
co-operation of the natives. On such support he might 
now safely calculate from Tlascala and the other In- 
dian territories, whose warriors were so eager to serve 
under his banners. His past acquaintance with them 
had instructed him in their national character and sys- 
tem of war ; while the natives who had fought under 
his command, if they had caught little of the Spanish 
tactics, had learned to act in concert with the white 
men and to obey him implicitly as their commander. 
This was a considerable improvement in such wild and 
disorderly levies, and greatly augmented the strength 
derived from numbers. 

Experience showed that in a future conflict with the 
capital it would not do to trust to the causeways, but 
that, to succeed, he must command the lake. He pro- 
posed, therefore, to build a number of vessels like those 
constructed under his orders in Montezuma's time and 
afterwards destroyed by the inhabitants. For this he 
had still the services of the same experienced ship- 
builder, Martin Lopez, who, as we have seen, had for- 
tunately escaped the slaughter of the " Melancholy 
Night." Cortes now sent this man to Tlascala, with 
orders to build thirteen brigantines, which might be 



taken to pieces and carried on the shoulders of the 
Indians to be launched on the waters of Lake Tezcuco. 
The sails, rigging, and iron-work were to be brought 
from Vera Cruz, where they had been stored since their 
removal from the dismantled ships. It was a bold con- 
ception, that of constructing a fleet to be transported 
across forest and mountain before it was launched on 
its destined waters ! But it suited the daring genius 
of Cortes, who, with the co-operation of his stanch 
Tlascalan confederates, did not doubt his ability to 
carry it into execution. 

It was with no little regret that the general learned at 
this time the death of his good friend Maxixca, the old 
lord of Tlascala, who had stood by him so steadily in 
the hour of adversity. He had fallen a victim to that 
terrible epidemic, the smallpox, which was now sweep- 
ing over the land like fire over the prairies, smiting 
down prince and peasant, and adding another to the 
long train of woes that followed the march of the white 
men. It was imported into the country, it is said, by 
a negro slave in the fleet of Narvaez. 18 It first broke 
out in Cempoalla. The poor natives, ignorant of the 
best mode of treating the loathsome disorder, sought 
relief in their usual practice of bathing in cold water, 
which greatly aggravated their trouble. From Cem- 
poalla it spread rapidly over the neighboring country, 

18 " La primera fue de viruela, y comenzo de esta manera. Siendo 
Capitan y Governador Hernando Cortes al tiempo que el Capitan 
Panfilo de Narvaez desembarco en esta tierra, en uno de sus navios 
vino un negro herido de viruelas, la cual enfermedad nunca en esta 
tierra se habia visto, y esta sazon estaba esta nueva Espana en estremo 
muy llena de gente." Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, 
cap. 1. 


and, penetrating through Tlascala, reached the Aztec 
capital, where Montezuma's successor, Cuitlahua, fell 
one of its first victims. Thence it swept down towards- 
the borders of the Pacific, leaving its path strewn with 
the dead bodies of the natives, who, in the strong 
language of a contemporary, perished in heaps like 
cattle stricken with the murrain. 19 It does not seem 
to have been fatal to the Spaniards, many of whom, 
probably, had already had the disorder, and who were, 
at all events, acquainted with the proper method of 
treating it. 

The death of Maxixca was deeply regretted by the 
troops, who lost in him a true and most efficient ally. 
With his last breath he commended them to his son 
and successor, as the great beings whose coming into 
the country had been so long predicted by the oracles. 20 
He expressed a desire to die in the profession of the 
Christian faith. Cortes no sooner learned his con- 
dition than he despatched Father Olmedo to Tlascala. 
The friar found that Maxixca had already caused a 
crucifix to be placed before his sick couch, as the ob- 
ject of his adoration. After explaining, as intelligibly 
as he could, the truths of revelation, he baptized the 
dying chieftain ; and the Spaniards had the satis- 
faction to believe that the soul of their benefactor 
was exempted from the doom of eternal perdition that 

J 9 " Morian como chinches d montones." (Toribio, Hist, de los 
Indios, ubi supra.) " So great was the number of those who died of 
this disease that there was no possibility of burying them, and in 
Mexico the dead were thrown into the canals, then filled with water, 
until the air was poisoned with the stench of putrid bodies." Sahagun, 
Hist, de Nueva-Espana, lib. 8, cap. i. 

20 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 136. 



hung over the unfortunate Indian who perished in his 
unbelief. 21 

Their late brilliant successes seem to have reconciled 
most of the disaffected soldiers to the prosecution ot 
the war. There were still a few among them, the sec- 
retary Duero, Bermudez the treasurer, and others high 
in office, or wealthy hidalgos, who looked with disgust 
on another campaign, and now loudly reiterated their 
demand of a free passage to Cuba. To this Cortes, 
satisfied with the support on which he could safely 
count, made no further objection. Having once given 
his consent, he did all in his power to facilitate their 
departure and provide for their comfort. He ordered 
the best ship at Vera Cruz to be placed at their dis- 
posal, to be well supplied with provisions and every 
thing necessary for the voyage, and sent Alvarado to 
the coast to superintend the embarkation. He took 
the most courteous leave of them, with assurances of 
his own unalterable regard. But, as the event proved, 
those who could part from him at this crisis had little 
sympathy with his fortunes ; and we find Duero not 
long afterwards in Spain, supporting the claims of 
Velasquez before the emperor, in opposition to those 
of his former friend and commander. 

The loss of these few men was amply compensated 
by the arrival of others, whom Fortune — to use no 
higher term — most unexpectedly threw in his way. 
The first of these came in a small vessel sent from 
Cuba by the governor, Velasquez, with stores for the 

21 Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. — Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 
2, lib. 10, cap. 19. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, 
cap. 39. 

Vol. II. 36 


colony at Vera Cruz. He was not aware of the lata 
transactions in the country, and of the discomfiture of 
his officer. In the vessel came despatches, it is said, 
from Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, instructing Narvaez 
to send Cortes, if he had not already done so, for trial 
to Spain. 22 The alcalde of Vera Cruz, agreeably to 
the general's instructions, allowed the captain of the 
bark to land, who had no doubt that the country was 
in the hands of Narvaez. He was undeceived by being 
seized, together with his men, so soon as they had set 
foot on shore. The vessel was then secured ; and the 
commander and his crew, finding out their error, were 
persuaded without much difficulty to join their coun- 
trymen in Tlascala. 

A second vessel, sent soon after by Velasquez, shared 
the same fate, and those on board consented, also, to 
take their chance in the expedition under Cortes. 

About the same time, Garay, the governor of Ja- 
maica, fitted out three ships with an armed force to 
plant a colony on the Panuco, a river which pours into 
the Gulf a few degrees north of Villa Rica. Garay 
persisted in establishing this settlement, in contempt 
of the claims of Cortes, who had already entered into 
a friendly communication with the inhabitants of that 
region. But the crews experienced such a rough re- 
ception from the natives on landing, and lost so many 
men, that they were glad to take to their vessels again. 
One of these foundered in a storm. The others put 
into the port of Vera Cruz to restore the men, much 
weakened by hunger and disease. Here they were 

22 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 131. 


42 3 

kindly received, their wants supplied, their wounds 
healed ; when they were induced, by the liberal prom- 
ises of Cortes, to abandon the disastrous service of 
their employer and enlist under his own prosperous 
banner. The reinforcements obtained from these 
sources amounted to full a hundred and fifty men, 
well provided with arms and ammunition, together 
with twenty horses. By this strange concurrence of 
circumstances, Cortes saw himself in possession of the 
supplies he most needed ; that, too, from the hands 
of his enemies, whose costly preparations were thus 
turned to the benefit of the very man whom they were 
designed to ruin. 

His good fortune did not stop here. A ship from 
the Canaries touched at Cuba, freighted with arms and 
military stores for the adventurers in the New World. 
Their commander heard there of the recent discoveries 
in Mexico, and, thinking it would afford a favorable 
market for him, directed his course to Vera Cruz. He 
was not mistaken. The alcalde, by the general's 
orders, purchased both ship and cargo ; and the crews, 
catching the spirit of adventure, followed their country- 
men into the interior. There seemed to be a magic 
in the name of Cortes, which drew all who came within 
hearing of it under his standard. 23 

Having now completed the arrangements for settling 
his new conquests, there seemed to be no further reason 
for postponing his departure to Tlascala. He was first 
solicited by the citizens of Tepeaca to leave a garrison 

2 3 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 131, 133, 136. — Herrera, 
Hist, general, ubi supra. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp, 
154, 167. — Oviedc, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 16. 



with them, to protect them from the vengeance of the 
Aztecs. Cortes acceded to the request, and, consider- 
ing the central position of the town favorable for main- 
taining his conquests, resolved to plant a colony there. 
For this object he selected sixty of his soldiers, most of 
whom were disabled by wounds or infirmity. He ap- 
pointed the alcaldes, regidores, and other functionaries 
of a civic magistracy. The place he called Segura de 
la Frontera, or Security of the Frontier. 24 It received 
valuable privileges as a city, a few years later, from the 
emperor Charles the Fifth, 25 and rose to some consider- 
ation in the age of the Conquest. But its consequence 
soon after declined. Even its Castilian name, with 
the same caprice which has decided the fate of more 
than one name in our own country, was gradually 
supplanted by its ancient one, and the little village 
of Tepeaca is all that now commemorates the once 
flourishing Indian capital, and the second Spanish 
colony in Mexico. 

While at Segura, Cortes wrote that celebrated letter 
to the emperor — the second in the series — so often 
cited in the preceding pages. It takes up the narrative 
with the departure from Vera Cruz, and exhibits in a 
brief and comprehensive form the occurrences up to 
the time at which we are now arrived. In the con- 
cluding page, the general, after noticing the embar- 
rassments under which he labors, says, in his usual 
manly spirit, that he holds danger and fatigue light 
in comparison with the attainment of his object, 
and that he is confident a short time will restore the 

"4 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 156. 
2 ? Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 153. 



Spaniards to their former position and repair all their 
losses. 26 

He notices the resemblance of Mexico, in many of 
its features and productions, to the mother country, 
and requests that it may henceforth be called " New 
Spain of the Ocean Sea." ^ He finally requests that a 
commission may be sent out, at once, to investigate his 
conduct and to verify the accuracy of his statements. 

This letter, which was printed at Seville the year 
after its reception, has been since reprinted, and trans- 
lated, more than once. 28 It excited a great sensation 
at the court, and among the friends of science gener- 
ally. The previous discoveries in the New World had 
disappointed the expectations which had been formed 
after the solution of the grand problem of its existence. 
They had brought to light only rude tribes, which, 
however gentle and inoffensive in their manners, were 
still in the primitive stages of barbarism. Here was an 

26 " E creo, como ya a Vuestra Magestad he dicho, que en muy 
breve tomara al estado, en que antes yo la tenia, e se restauraran las 
p^rdidas pasadas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 167. 

=7 " Me parecio, que el mas conveniente nombre para esta dicha 
Tierra, era llamarse la Nueva Espana del Mar Occano : y assi en nom- 
bre de Vuestra Magestad se le puso aqueste nombre ; humildemente 
suplico a Vuestra Alteza lo tenga por bien, y mande, que se nombre 
assi." (Ibid., p. 169.) The name of " New Spain," without other 
addition, had been before given by Grijalva to Yucatan. Ante, Book 
2, Chapter 1. 

28 It was dated, " De la Villa Segura de la Frontera de esta Nueva- 
Espana, a treinta de Octubre de mil quinientos veinte ahos." But, in 
consequence of the loss of the ship intended to bear it, the letter was 
not sent till the spring of the following year ; leaving the nation still in 
ignorance of the fate of the gallant adventurers in Mexico, and the 
magnitude of their discoveries. 



authentic account of a vast nation, potent and populous, 
exhibiting an elaborate social polity, well advanced in 
the arts of civilization, occupying a soil that teemed 
with mineral treasures and with a boundless variety of 
vegetable products, stores of wealth, both natural and 
artificial, that seemed, for the first time, to realize the 
golden dreams in which the great discoverer of the 
New World had so fondly, and in his own day so 
fallaciously, indulged. Well might the scholar of that 
age exult in the revelation of these wonders, which so 
many had long, but in vain, desired to see. 29 

With this letter went another to the emperor, signed, 
as it would seem, by nearly every officer and soldier in 
the camp. It expatiated on the obstacles thrown in 
the way of the expedition by Velasquez and Narvaez, 
and the great prejudice this had caused to the royal 
interests. It then set forth the services of Cortes, and 
besought the emperor to confirm him in his authority, 
and not to allow any interference with one who, from 
his personal character, his intimate knowledge of the 
land and its people, and the attachment of his soldiers, 
was the man best qualified in all the world to achieve 
the conquest of the country. 30 

=9 The state of feeling occasioned by these discoveries may be seen 
in the correspondence of Peter Martyr, then residing at the court of 
Castile. See, in particular, his epistle, dated March, 1521, to his noble 
pupil, the Marquis de Mondejar, in which he dwells with unbounded 
satisfaction on all the rich stores of science which the expedition of 
Cortes had thrown open to the world Opus Epistolarum, ep. 771. 

30 This memorial is in that part of my collection made by the former 
President of the Spanish Academy, Vargas Ponce. It is signed by 
four hundred and forty-four names ; and it is remarkable that this 
roll, which includes every other familiar name in the army, should not 



It added not a little to the perplexities of Cortes 
that he was still in entire ignorance of the light in 
which his conduct was regarded in Spain. He had 
not even heard whether his despatches, sent the year 
preceding from Vera Cruz, had been received. Mexico 
was as far removed from all intercourse with the civil- 
ized world as if it had been placed at the antipodes. 
Few vessels had entered, and none had been allowed 
to leave, its ports. The governor of Cuba, an island 
distant but a few days' sail, was yet ignorant, as we 
have seen, of the fate of his armament. On the arrival 
of every new vessel or fleet on these shores, Cortes 
might well doubt whether it brought aid to his under- 
taking, or a royal commission to supersede him. His 
sanguine spirit relied on the former ; though the latter 
was much the more probable, considering the intimacy 
of his enemy, the governor, with Bishop Fonseca, a 
man jealous of his authority, and one who, from his 
station at the head of the Indian department, held a 
predominant control over the affairs of the New World. 
It was the policy of Cortes, therefore, to lose no time ; 
to push forward his preparations, lest another should 
be permitted to snatch the laurel now almost within 
his grasp. Could he but reduce the Aztec capital, he 
felt that he should be safe, and that, in whatever light 
his irregular proceedings might now be viewed, his 
services in that event would far more than counter- 
balance them in the eyes both of the crown and of 
the country. 

contain that of Bernal Diaz del Castillo. It can only be accounted 
for by his illness ; as he tells us he was confined to his bed by a fever 
about this time. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 134. 


The general wrote, also, to the Royal Audience at 
St. Domingo, in order to interest them in his cause. 
He sent four vessels to the same island, to obtain a 
further supply of arms and ammunition ; and, the better 
to stimulate the cupidity of adventurers and allure 
them to the expedition, he added specimens of the 
beautiful fabrics of the country, and of its precious 
metals. 31 The funds for procuring these important 
supplies were, probably, derived from the plunder 
gathered in the late battles, and the gold which, as 
already remarked, had been saved from the general 
wreck by the Castilian convoy. 

It was the middle of December when Cortes, having 
completed all his arrangements, set out on his return 
to Tlascala, ten or twelve leagues distant. He marched 
in the van of the army, and took the way of Cholula. 
How different was his condition from that in which he 
had left the republican capital not five months before ! 
His march was a triumphal procession, displaying the 
various banners and military ensigns taken from the 
enemy, long files of captives, and all the rich spoils of 
conquest gleaned from many a hard-fought field. As 
the army passed through the towns and villages, the 
inhabitants poured out to greet them, and, as they 
drew near to Tlascala, the whole population, men, 
women, and children, came forth, celebrating their 

31 Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 179. — Herrera, Hist, 
general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 18. — Alonso de Avila went as the bearer 
of despatches to St. Domingo. Bernal Diaz, who is not averse, now 
and then, to a fling at his commander, says that Cortes was willing to 
get rid of this gallant cavalier, because he was too independent and 
plain-spoken. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 136. 


return with songs, dancing, and music. Arches dec- 
orated' with flowers were thrown across the streets 
through which they passed, and a Tlascalan orator 
addressed the general, on his entrance into the city., 
in a lofty panegyric on his late achievements, pro- 
claiming him the " avenger of the nation." Amidst 
this pomp and triumphal show, Cortes and his prin- 
cipal officers were seen clad in deep mourning in honor 
of their friend Maxixca. And this tribute of respect 
to the memory of their venerated ruler touched the 
Tlascalans more sensibly than all the proud display of 
military trophies. 33 

The general's first act was to confirm the son of his 
deceased friend in the succession, which had been 
contested by an illegitimate brother. The youth was 
but twelve years of age ; and Cortes prevailed on him 
without difficulty to follow his father's example and 
receive baptism. He afterwards knighted him with 
his own hand ; the first instance, probably, of the 
order of chivalry being conferred on an American 
Indian. 33 The elder Xicotencatl was also persuaded 
to embrace Christianity; and the example of their 
rulers had its obvious effect in preparing the minds 
of the people for the reception of the truth. Cortes, 
whether from the suggestions of Olmedo, or from the 
engrossing nature of his own affairs, did not press the 
work of conversion further at this time, but wisely left 

33 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 136. — Herrera, Hist, 
general dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19. 

33 Ibid., ubi supra — " Hicolo," says Herrera, " i arm61e caballero, 
al vso de Castilla ; i porque lo fuese de Jesu-Christo, le hico bauticar. 
i se Ham6 D. Lorenco Maxiscatzin." 



the good seed, already sown, to ripen in secret, till time 
should bring forth the harvest. 

The Spanish commander, during his short stay in 
Tlascala, urged forward the preparations for the cam- 
paign. He endeavored to drill the Tlascalans and to 
give them some idea of European discipline and tac- 
tics. He caused new arms to be made, and the old 
ones to be put in order. Powder was manufactured 
with the aid of sulphur obtained by some adventurous 
cavaliers from the smoking throat of Popocatepetl. 3 ' 1 
The construction of the brigantines went forward pros- 
perously under the direction of Lopez, with the aid of 
the Tlascalans. 33 Timber was cut in the forests, and 
pitch, an article unknown to the Indians, was obtained 
from the pines on the neighboring Sierra de Malinche. 
The rigging and other appurtenances were transported 
by the Indian tamanes from Villa Rica ; and by Christ- 
mas the work was so far advanced that it was no longer 
necessary for Cortes to delay the march to Mexico. 

34 For an account of the manner in which this article was procured 
by Montafio and his doughty companions, see ante, p. 46. 

35 " Ansi se hicieron trece bergantines en el barrio de Atempa, 
junto i. una hermita que se llama San Buenaventura, los quales hizo 
y otro Martin Lopez uno de los primeros conquistadores, y le ayud6 
Neguez Gomez." Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 






While the events related in the preceding chapter 
were passing, an important change had taken place in 
the Aztec monarchy. Montezuma's brother and suc- 
cessor, Cuitlahua, had suddenly died of the smallpox, 
after a brief reign of four months, — brief, but glorious, 
for it had witnessed the overthrow of the Spaniards 
and their expulsion from Mexico. 1 On the death of 
their warlike chief, the electors were convened, as 
usual, to supply the vacant throne. It was an office of 
great responsibility in the dark hour of their fortunes. 

1 Soli's dismisses this prince with the remark " that he reigned but a 
few days; long enough, however, for his indolence and apathy to 
efface the memory of his name among the people." (Conquista, lib. 
4, cap. 16.) Whence the historiographer of the Indies borrowed the 
coloring for this portrait I cannot conjecture ; certainly not from the 
ancient authorities, which uniformly delineate the character and con- 
duct of the Aztec sovereign in the light represented in the text. 
Cortes, who ought to know, describes him " as held to be very wise 
and valiant." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 166. — See, also, Sahagun, 
Hist, de Nueva-Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29, — Herrera, Hist, general, 
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19, — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88, — 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 16, — Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 118. 



The teoteuctli, or high-priest, invoked the blessing of 
the supreme God on their deliberations. His prayer 
is still extant. It was the last one ever made on a 
similar occasion in Anahuac, and a few extracts from 
it may interest the reader, as a specimen of Aztec elo- 
quence : 

(< O Lord ! thou knowest that the days of our sov- 
ereign are at an end, for thou hast placed him beneath 
thy feet. He abides in the place of his retreat; he has 
trodden the path which we are all to tread ; he has 
gone to the house whither we are all to follow, — the 
house of eternal darkness, where no light cometh. He 
is gathered to his rest, and no one henceforth shall dis- 
quiet him. . . . All these were the princes, his pre- 
decessors, who sat on the imperial throne, directing 
the affairs of thy kingdom ; for thou art the universal 
lord and emperor, by whose will and movement the 
whole world is directed ; thou needest not the counsel 
of another. They laid down the intolerable burden 
of government, and left it to him, their successor. Yet 
he sojourned but a few days in his kingdom, — but a 
few days had we enjoyed his presence, when thou sum- 
monedst him away to follow those who had ruled over 
the land before him. And great cause has he for 
thankfulness, that thou hast relieved him from so 
grievous a load, and placed him in tranquillity and 
rest. . . . Who now shall order matters for the good 
of the people and the realm ? Who shall appoint the 
judges to administer justice to thy people? Who now 
shall bid the drum and the flute to sound, and gather 
together the veteran soldiers and the men mighty in 
battle? Our Lord and our Defence! wilt thou, in thy 


wisdom, elect one who shall be worthy to sit on the 
throne of thy kingdom ; one who shall bear the griev- 
ous burden of government; who shall comfort and 
cherish thy poor people, even as the mother cherisheth 
her offspring? . . . O Lord most merciful ! pour forth 
thy light and thy splendor over this thine empire ! . . . 
Order it so that thou shalt be served in all, and through 
all." 2 

2 The reader of Spanish will see that in the version in the text I have 
condensed the original, which abounds in the tautology and repetitions 
characteristic of the compositions of a rude people. " Senor nuestro 
ya V. M. sabe como es muerto nuestro N. : ya lo habeis puesto debajo 
de vuestros pies : ya estd en su recogimiento, y es ido por el camino 
que todos hemos de ir y d la casa donde hemos de morar, casa de 
perpetuas tinieblas, donde ni hay ventana, ni luz alguna : ya esta en 
el reposo donde nadie le desasosegard. . . . Todos estos senores 
y reyes rigieron, goberndron, y gozdron del sefiorio y dignidad 
real, y del trono y sitial del imperio, los cuales ordenaron y con- 
certdron las cosas de vuestro reino, que sois el universal senor y 
emperador, por cuyo albedrioy motivo se rige todo el universo, y que 
no teneis necesidad de consejo de ningun otro. Ya estos dichos de- 
jdron la carga intolerable del gobierno que trageron sobre sus hombros, 
y lo dejaron a su succesor N., el cual por algunos pocos dias tuvo en 
pie su sehorio y reino, y ahora ya se ha ido en pos de ellos al otro 
mundo, porque vos le manddsteis que fuese y le llamasteis, y por 
haberle descargado de tan gran carga, y quitado tan gran trabajo, y 
haberle puesto en paz y en reposo, esta muy obligado d daros gracias. 
Algunos pocos dias le logramos, y ahora para siempre se ausento de 
nosotros para nunca mas volver al mundo. ... £ Quien ordenara y 
dispondra las cosas necesarias al bien del pueblo, senorio y reino ? 
I Quien elegird a los jueces particulares, que tengan carga de la gente 
baja por los barrios ? 1 Quien mandara tocar el atambor y pifano 
para juntar gente para la guerra ? 1 Y quien reunird y acaudillard d 
los soldados viejos, y hombres diestros en la pelea ? Senor nuestro y 
amparador nuestro ! tenga por bien V. M. de elegir, y sefialar alguna 
persona suficiente para que tenga vuestro trono, y lleve a cuestas la 
carga pesada del regimen de la republica, regocige y regale d los 
Vol. II. — t 37 


The choice fell on Quauhtemotzin, or Guatemozin, 
as euphoniously corrupted by the Spaniards. 3 He was 
nephew to the two last monarchs, and married his 
cousin, the beautiful princess Tecuichpo, Montezuma's 
daughter. " He was not more than twenty-five years 
old, and elegant in his person for an Indian," says one 
who had seen him often; "valiant, and so terrible that 
his followers trembled in his presence." 4 He did not 
shrink from the perilous post that was offered to him; 
and, as he saw the tempest gathering darkly around, 
he prepared to meet it like a man. Though young, 
he had ample experience in military matters, and had 
distinguished himself above all others in the bloody 
conflicts of the capital. He bore a sort of religious 
hatred to the Spaniards, like that which Hannibal is 
said to have sworn, and which he certainly cherished, 
against his Roman foes. 

populares, bien asi como la madre regala a. su hijo, poniendole en su 
regazo. . . . O senor nuestro humanisimo ! dad lumbre y resplandor 
de vuestra mano a esto reino ! . . . Hagase como V. M. fuere servido 
en todo, y por todo." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, lib. 6, cap. 5. 

3 The Spaniards appear to have changed the Qua, beginning Aztec 
names, into Gua, in the same manner as, in the mother country, they 
changed the Wad at the beginning of Arabic names into Guad. (See 
Conde, El Nubiense, Descripcion de Espafia, notas, passim.) The 
Aztec tzin was added to the names of sovereigns and great lords, as a 
mark of reverence. Thus, Cuitlahua was called Cuitlahuatzin. This 
termination, usually dropped by the Spaniards, has been retained 
from accident, or perhaps for the sake of euphony, in Guatemozin's 

•* " Mancebo de hasta veynte y cinco anos, bien gentil hombre para 
ser Indio, y muy esforcado, y se hizo temer de tal manera, que todos 
los suyos temblauan del ; y estaua casado con vna hija de Monte- 
cuma, bien hermosa muger para ser India." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 
Conquista, cap. 130. 


By means of his spies, Guatemozin made himself 
acquainted with the movements of the Spaniards and 
their design to besiege the capital. He prepared for 
it by sending away the useless part of the population, 
while he called in his potent vassals from the neigh- 
borhood. He continued the plans of his predecessor 
for strengthening the defences of the city, reviewed 
his troops, and stimulated them by prizes to excel in 
their exercises. He made harangues to his soldiers 
to rouse them to a spirit of desperate resistance. He 
encouraged his vassals throughout the empire to attack 
the white men wherever they were to be met with, set- 
ting a price on their heads, as well as on the persons 
of all who should be brought alive to him in Mexico. 3 
And it was no uncommon thing for the Spaniards to 
find hanging up in the temples of the conquered places 
the arms and accoutrements of their unfortunate coun- 
trymen who had been seized and sent to the capital for 
sacrifice. 6 Such was the young monarch who was now 
called to the tottering throne of the Aztecs ; worthy, 
by his bold and magnanimous nature, to sway the 
sceptre of his country in the most flourishing period 
of her renown, and now, in her distress, devoting him- 
self in the true spirit of a patriot prince to uphold her 
falling fortunes or bravely perish with them. 7 

s Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19. 

6 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 134. 

7 One may call to mind the beautiful invocation which Racine has 
put into the mouth of Joad : 

" Venez, cher rejeton d'une vaillante race, 
Remplir vos defenseurs d'une nouvelle audace; 
Venez du diademe a leurs yeux vous couvrir, 
Et perissez du moins en roi, s'il faut perir." 

Athalie, acte 4, scene 5. 


We must now return to the Spaniards in Tlascala, 
where we left them preparing to resume their march 
on Mexico. Their commander had the satisfaction to 
see his troops tolerably complete in their appointments; 
varying, indeed, according to the condition of the dif- 
ferent reinforcements which had arrived from time to 
time, but, on the whole, superior to those of the army 
with which he had first invaded the country. His 
whole force fell little short of six hundred men ; forty 
of whom were cavalry, together with eighty arque- 
busiers and crossbowmen. The rest were armed with 
sword and target, and with the copper-headed pike 
of Chinantla. He had nine cannon of a moderate 
calibre, and was indifferently supplied with powder. 8 

As his forces were drawn up in order of march, 
Cortes rode through the ranks, exhorting his soldiers, 
as usual with him on these occasions, to be true to 
themselves and the enterprise in which they were em- 
barked. He told them they were to march against 
rebels, who had once acknowledged allegiance to the 
Spanish sovereign ; 9 against barbarians, the enemies 
of their religion. They were to fight the battles of the 
Cross and of the crown ; to fight their own battles, to 
wipe away the stain from their arms, to avenge their 
injuries, and the loss of the dear companions who had 
been butchered on the field or on the accursed altar 

8 Rel. Tercera de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 183. — Most, if not all, 
of the authorities — a thing worthy of note — concur in this estimate 
of the Spanish forces. 

9 " Y como sin causa ninguna todos los Naturales de Colua, que 
son los de la gran Ciudad de Temixtitan, y los de todas las otras Pro- 
vincias i. ellas sujetas, no solamente se habian rebelado contra Vuestra 
Magestad." Ibid., ubi supra. 



of sacrifice. Never was there a war which offered 
higher incentives to the Christian cavalier; a war 
which opened to him riches and renown in this life, 
and an imperishable glory in that to come. 10 

Thus did the politic chief touch all the secret springs 
of devotion, honor, and ambition in the bosoms of 
his martial audience, waking the mettle of the most 
sluggish before leading him on the perilous emprise. 
They answered with acclamations that they were ready 
to die in defence of the Faith, and would either 
conquer, or leave their bones with those of their 
countrymen in the waters of the Tezcuco. 

The army of the allies next passed in review before 
the general. It is variously estimated by writers from 
a hundred and ten to a hundred and fifty thousand 
soldiers ! The palpable exaggeration, no less than the 
discrepancy, shows that little reliance can be placed 
on any estimate. It is certain, however, that it was a 
multitudinous array, consisting not only of the flower 
of the Tlascalan warriors, but of those of Cholula, 
Tepeaca, and the neighboring territories, which had 
submitted to the Castilian crown." 

They were armed, after the Indian fashion, with 
bows and arrows, the glassy maqimhuitl, and the long 
pike, which formidable weapon Cortes, as we have 
seen, had introduced among his own troops. They 

10 Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 184. — " Porque demas 
del premio, que les davia en el cielo, se les seguirian en esto mundo 
grandissima honra, riquezas inestimables." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chi- 
chimeca, MS., cap. 91. 

11 " Cosa muy de ver," says Father Sahagun, without hazarding any 
precise number, " en la cantidad y en los aparejos que Uevaban." 
Hist, de Nueva-Espana, lib. 12, cap. 30, MS. 



were divided into battalions, each having its own ban- 
ner, displaying the appropriate arms or emblem of its 
company. The four great chiefs of the nation marched 
in the van ; three of them venerable for their years, 
and showing, in the insignia which decorated their 
persons, the evidence of many a glorious feat in arms. 
The panache of many-colored plumes floated from their 
casques, set in emeralds or other precious stones. Their 
escaupil, or stuffed doublet of cotton, was covered with 
the graceful surcoat of feather-work, and their feet 
were protected by sandals embossed with gold. Four 
young pages followed, bearing their weapons, and four 
others supported as many standards, on which were 
emblazoned the armorial bearings of the four great 
divisions of the republic. 12 The Tlascalans, though 
frugal in the extreme, and rude in their way of life, 
were as ambitious of display in their military attire as 
any of the races on the plateau. As they defiled be- 
fore Cortes, they saluted him by waving their banners 
and by a flourish of their wild music, which the gen- 
eral acknowledged by courteously raising his cap as 
they passed. 13 The Tlascalan warriors, and especially 
the younger Xicotencatl, their commander, affected to 
imitate their European masters, not merely in their 
tactics, but in minuter matters of military etiquette. 

Cortes, with the aid of Marina, made a brief address 
to his Indian allies. He reminded them that he was 
going to fight their battles against their ancient ene- 
mies. He called on them to support him in a manner 
worthy of their renowned republic. To those who 

12 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. io, cap. 20. 
J 3 Ibid., ubi supra. 



remained at home, he committed the charge of aiding 
in the completion of the brigantines, on which the 
success of the expedition so much depended ; and he 
requested that none would follow his banner who were 
not prepared to remain till the final reduction of the 
capital. 14 This address was answered by shouts, or 
rather yells, of defiance, showing the exultation felt 
by his Indian confederates at the prospect of at last 
avenging their manifold wrongs and humbling their 
haughty enemy. 

Before setting out on the expedition, Cortes pub- 
lished a code of ordinances, as he terms them, or reg- 
ulations for the army, too remarkable to be passed 
over in silence. The preamble sets forth that in all 
institutions, whether divine or human, — if the latter 
have any worth, — order is the great law. The ancient 
chronicles inform us that the greatest captains in past 
times owed their successes quite as much to the wisdom 
of their ordinances as to their own valor and virtue. 
The situation of the Spaniards eminently demanded 
such a code ; a mere handful of men as they were, in 
the midst of countless enemies, most cunning in the 
management of their weapons and in the art of war. 
The instrument then reminds the army that the con- 
version of the heathen is the work most acceptable in 
the eye of the Almighty, and one that will be sure to 
receive his support. It calls on every soldier to regard 
this as the prime object of the expedition, without which 
the war would be manifestly unjust, and every acquisition 
made by it, a robbery S s 

*4 Herrera, Hist, general, loc. cit. 

>5 " Que su principal motivo e intencion sea apartar y desarraigar 


The general solemnly protests that the principal 
motive which operates in his own bosom is the desire 
to wean the natives from their gloomy idolatry and to 
impart to them the knowledge of a purer faith ; and 
next, to recover for his master, the emperor, the 
dominions which of right belong to him. 16 

The ordinances then prohibit all blasphemy against 
God or the saints ; a vice much more frequent among 
Catholic than Protestant nations, arising, perhaps, less 
from difference of religion than of physical tempera- 
ment, — for the warm sun of the South, under which 
Catholicism prevails, stimulates the sensibilities to the 
more violent expression of passion. 17 

Another law is directed against gaming, to which the 
Spaniards, in all ages, have been peculiarly addicted. 

de las dichas idolatrias i. todos los naturales destas partes y reducillos 
6 & lo menos desear su salvacion y que seari reducidos al conocimiento 
de Dios y de su Santa Fe catolica : porque si con otra intencion se 
hiciese la dicha guerra seria injusta y todo lo que en ella se oviese 
Onoloxio e obligado & restitucion." Ordenanzas militares, MS. 

16 " £ desde ahora protesto en nombre de S. M. que mi principal 
intencion e motivo es facer esta guerra e las otras que ficiese por 
traer y reducir i. los dichos naturales al dicho conocimiento de nu- 
estra Santa Fe e creencia; y despues por los sozjugar e supeditar 
debajo del yugo e dominio imperial e real de su Sacra Magestad, i. 
quien juridicamente el Senorio de todas estas partes." Ordenanzas 
militares, MS. 

*7 " Ce n'est qu'en Espagne et en Italie," says the penetrating 
historian of the Italian Republics, " qu'on rencontre cette habitude 
vicieuse, absolument inconnue aux peuples protestants, et qu'il ne 
faut point confondre avec les grossiers juremens que le peuple en tout 
days mele h ses discours. Dans tous les acces de colere des peuples 
du Midi, ils s'attaquent aux objets de leur culte, ils les menacent, et 
ils accablent de paroles outrageantes la Divinite elle-meme, le Re- 
dempteur ou ses saints." Sismondi, Republiques Italiennes, cap 



Cortes, making allowance for the strong national 
propensity, authorizes it under certain limitations, 
but prohibits the use of dice altogether. 18 Then fol- 
low other laws against brawls and private combats, 
against personal taunts and the irritating sarcasms of 
rival companies; rules for the more perfect discipline of 
the troops, whether in camp or the field. Among others 
is one prohibiting any captain, under pain of death, 
from charging the enemy without orders ; a practice 
noticed as most pernicious and of too frequent occur- 
rence, — showing the impetuous spirit and want of true 
military subordination in the bold cavaliers who fol- 
lowed the standard of Cortes. 

The last ordinance prohibits any man, officer or 
private, from securing to his own use any of the booty 
taken from the enemy, whether it be gold, silver, pre- 
cious stones, feather-work, stuffs, slaves, or other com- 
modity, however or wherever obtained, in the city or 
in the field, and requires him to bring it forthwith to 
the presence of the general, or the officer appointed to 
receive it. The violation of this law was punished 
with death and confiscation of property. So severe 

18 Lucio Marineo, who witnessed all the dire effects of this national 
propensity at the Castilian court, where he was residing at this time, 
breaks out into the following animated apostrophe against it: "The 
gambler is he who wishes and conspires the death of his parents, he 
who swears falsely by God and by the life of his king and lord, he 
who kills his own soul and casts it into hell. What will not the gam- 
bler do, when he is not ashamed to lose his money, his time, his sleep, 
his reputation, his honor, and even life itself? So that, considering 
how great a number of men are incessantly engaged in play, the 
opinion seems to me well founded of those who say that hell is filled 
with gamblers." Cosas memorables de Espagha (ed. Sevilla, 1539), 
fol. 165. 



an edict may be thought to prove that, however much 
the Conquistador may have been influenced by spiritual 
considerations, he was by no means insensible to those 
of a temporal character. 19 

These provisions were not suffered to remain a dead 
letter. The Spanish commander, soon after their proc- 
lamation, made an example of two of his own slaves, 
whom he hanged for plundering the natives. A 
similar sentence was passed on a soldier for the like 
offence, though he allowed him to be cut down before 
the sentence was entirely executed. Cortes knew well 
the character of his followers ; rough and turbulent 
spirits, who required to be ruled with an iron hand. 
Yet he was not eager to assert his authority on light 
occasions. The intimacy into which they were thrown 
by their peculiar situation, perils, and sufferings, in 
which all equally shared, and a common interest in the 
adventure, induced a familiarity between men and 
officers, most unfavorable to military discipline. The 
general's own manners, frank and liberal, seemed to 
invite this freedom, which, on ordinary occasions, he 
made no attempt to repress ; perhaps finding it too 
difficult, or at least impolitic, since it afforded a safety- 
valve for the spirits of a licentious soldiery, that, if 
violently coerced, might have burst forth into open 
mutiny. But the limits of his forbearance were clearly 
defined ; and any attempt to overstep them, or to vio- 

*9 These regulations are reported with much uniformity by Herrera, 
Solis, Clavigero, and others, but with such palpable inaccuracy that it 
is clear they never could have seen the original instrument. The copy 
in my possession was taken from the Mufioz collection. As the docu- 
ment, though curious and highly interesting, has never been published, 
I have given it entire in the Appendix, Part 2, No. 13. 



late the established regulations of the camp, brought 
a sure and speedy punishment on the offender. By 
thus tempering severity with indulgence, masking an 
iron will under the open bearing of a soldier, Cortes 
established a control over his band of bold and reck- 
less adventurers, such as a pedantic martinet, scrupu- 
lous in enforcing the minutiae of military etiquette, 
could never have obtained. 

The ordinances, dated on the twenty-second of 
December, were proclaimed to the assembled army on 
the twenty-sixth. Two days afterwards, the troops 
were on their march, and Cortes, at the head of his 
battalions, with colors flying and music playing, issued 
forth from the gates of the republican capital, which 
had so generously received him in his distress, and 
which now, for the second time, supplied him with the 
means for consummating his great enterprise. The 
population of the city, men, women, and children, 
hung on the rear of the army, taking a last leave of 
their countrymen, and imploring the gods to crown 
their arms with victory. 

Notwithstanding the great force mustered by the 
Indian confederates, the Spanish general allowed but a 
small part of them now to attend him. He proposed 
to establish his headquarters at some place on the 
Tezcucan lake, whence he could annoy the Aztec 
capital by reducing the surrounding country, cutting 
off the supplies, and thus placing the city in a state of 
blockade. 20 

80 Herrera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20. — Bernal Diaz, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 127. The former historian states the 
number of Indian allies who followed Cortes, at eighty thousand ; the 
latter at ten thousand ! 4 Quien sabe ? 



The direct assault on Mexico itself he intended to 
postpone until the arrival of the brigantines should 
enable him to make it with the greatest advantage. 
Meanwhile, he had no desire to encumber himself with 
a superfluous multitude, whom it would be difficult to 
feed ; and he preferred to leave them at Tlascala, 
whence they might convey the vessels, when com- 
pleted, to the camp, and aid him in his future opera- 

Three routes presented themselves to Cortes by 
which he might penetrate into the Valley. He chose 
the most difficult, traversing the bold sierra which 
divides the eastern plateau from the western, and so 
rough and precipitous as to be scarcely practicable for 
the march of an army. He wisely judged that he 
should be less likely to experience annoyance from the 
enemy in this direction, as they might naturally con- 
fide in the difficulties of the ground for their protection. 

The first day, the troops advanced five or six leagues, 
Cortes riding in the van, at the head of his little body 
of cavalry. They halted at the village of Tetzmellocan, 
at the base of the mountain chain which traverses the 
country, touching, at its southern limit, the mighty 
Iztaccihuatl, or "White Woman," — white with the 
snows of ages. 21 At this village they met with a 

21 This mountain, which, with its neighbor Popocatepetl, forms the 
great barrier — the Hercidis columnce — of the Mexican Valley, has been 
fancifully likened, from its long dorsal swell, to the back of a drome- 
dary. (Tudor's Tour in North America, Let. 22.) It rises far above 
the limits of perpetual snow in the tropics, and its huge crest and 
sides, enveloped in its silver drapery, form one of the most striking 
objects in the magnificent coup-d'ceil presented to the inhabitants of 
the capital. 



friendly reception, and on the following morning began 
the ascent of the sierra. 

The path was steep and exceedingly rough. Thick 
matted bushes covered its surface, and the winter tor- 
rents had broken it into deep stony channels, hardly 
practicable for the passage of artillery, while the strag- 
gling branches of the trees, flung horizontally across 
the road, made it equally difficult for cavalry The 
cold, as they rose higher, became intense. It was 
keenly felt by the Spaniards, accustomed of late to a 
warm, or at least temperate, climate ; though the ex- 
treme toil with which they forced their way upward 
furnished the best means of resisting the weather. The 
only vegetation to be seen in these higher regions was 
the pine, dark forests of which clothed the sides of the 
mountains, till even these dwindled into a thin and 
stunted growth. It was night before the way-worn 
soldiers reached the bald crest of the sierra, where they 
lost no time in kindling their fires ; and, huddling 
round their bivouacs, they warmed their frozen limbs 
and prepared their evening repast. 

With the earliest dawn, the troops were again in 
motion. Mass was said, and they began their descent, 
more difficult and painful than their ascent on the day 
preceding ; for, in addition to the natural obstacles of 
the road, they found it strewn with huge pieces of 
timber and trees, obviously felled for the purpose by 
the natives. Cortes ordered up a body of light troops 
to clear away the impediments, and the army again 
resumed its march, but with the apprehension that the 
enemy had prepared an ambuscade, to surprise them 
when they should be entangled in the pass. They 
Vol.— II. 38 


moved cautiously forward, straining their vision to 
pierce the thick gloom of the forests, where the wily 
foe might be lurking. But they saw no living thing, 
except only the wild inhabitants of the woods, and 
flocks of the zopilote, the voracious vulture of the coun- 
try, which, in anticipation of a bloody banquet, hung, 
like a troop of evil spirits, on the march of the army. 

As they descended, the Spaniards felt a sensible and 
most welcome change in the temperature. The char- 
acter of the vegetation changed with it, and the fune- 
real pine, their only companion of late, gave way to 
the sturdy oak, to the sycamore, and, lower down, to 
the graceful pepper-tree mingling its red berry with 
the dark foliage of the forest ; while, in still lower 
depths, the gaudy-colored creepers might be seen 
flinging their gay blossoms over the branches and 
telling of a softer and more luxurious climate. 

At length the army emerged on an open level, where 
the eye, unobstructed by intervening wood or hill-top, 
could range, far and wide, over the Valley of Mexico. 
There it lay bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched 
out, as it were, in slumber, in the arms of the giant 
hills which clustered, like a phalanx of guardian genii, 
around it. The magnificent vision, new to many of 
the spectators, filled them with rapture. Even the 
veterans of Cortes could not withhold their admira- 
tion, though this was soon followed by a bitter feeling, 
as they recalled the sufferings which had befallen them 
within these beautiful but treacherous precincts. It 
made us feel, says the lion-hearted Conqueror, in his 
Letters, that " we had no choice but victory or death ; 
and, our minds once resolved, we moved forward with 



as light a step as if we had been going on an errand 
of certain pleasure." 22 

As the Spaniards advanced, they beheld the neigh- 
boring hill-tops blazing with beacon-fires, showing that 
the country was already alarmed and mustering to 
oppose them. The general called on his men to be 
mindful of their high reputation ; to move in order, 
closing up their ranks, and to obey implicitly the com- 
mands of their officers. 23 At every turn among the 
hills, they expected to meet the forces of the enemy 
drawn up to dispute their passage. And, as they were 
allowed to pass the defiles unmolested, and drew near 
to the open plains, they were prepared to see them 
occupied by a formidable host, who would compel them 
to fight over again the battle of Otumba. But, al- 
though clouds of dusky warriors were seen, from time 
to time, hovering on the highlands, as if watching their 
progress, they experienced no interruption till they 
reached a barranca, or deep ravine, through which 
flowed a little river, crossed by a bridge partly demol- 
ished. On the opposite side a considerable body of 
Indians was stationed, as if to dispute the passage ; 
but, whether distrusting their own numbers, or intimi- 
dated by the steady advance of the Spaniards, they 
offered them no annoyance, and were quickly dis- 

22 " Y prometimos todos de nunca de ella salir, sin Victoria, 6 dejar 
alii las vidas. Y con esta determinacion ibamos todos tan alegres, 
como si fueramos 1 cosa de mucho placer." Rel. Terc, ap. Loren- 
zana, p. 188. 

=3 " Y yo torne a rogar, y encomendar mucho & los Espanoles, que 
hiciessen, como siempre habian hecho, y como se esperaba de sus 
Personas ; y que nadie no se desmandasse, y que fuessen con mucho 
concierto, y orden por su Camino." Ibid., ubi supra. 


persed by a few resolute charges of cavalry. The 
army then proceeded, without molestation, to a small 
town, called Coatepec, where they halted for the night. 
Before retiring to his own quarters, Cortes made the 
rounds of the camp, with a few trusty followers, to see 
that all was safe. 24 He seemed to have an eye that never 
slumbered, and a frame incapable of fatigue. It was 
the indomitable spirit within, which sustained him. 23 

Yet he may well have been kept awake through the 
watches of the night, by anxiety and doubt. He was 
now but three leagues from Tezcuco, the far-famed 
capital of the Acolhuans. He proposed to establish 
his headquarters, if possible, at this place. Its nu- 
merous dwellings would afford ample accommodations 
for his army. An easy communication with Tlascala, 
by a different route from that which he had traversed, 
would furnish him with the means of readily obtaining 
supplies from that friendly country, and for the safe 
transportation of the brigantines, when finished, to be 
launched on the waters of the Tezcuco. But he had 
good reason to distrust the reception he should meet 
with in the capital ; for an important revolution had 

*4 " E como la Gente de pie venia algo cansada, y se hacia tarde, 
dormimos en una Poblacion, que se dice Coatepeque. . . . E yo con 
diez de Caballo comenze la Vela, y Ronda de la prima, y hice, que 
toda la Gente estubiesse muy apercibida." Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, 
pp. 188, 189. 

2 5 For the preceding pages, giving the account of the march, besides 
the Letter of Cortes, so often quoted, see Gomara, Cronica, cap. 121, 
— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 18, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, 
de la Conquista, cap. 137, — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS., — Her- 
rera, Hist, general, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20, — Ixtlilxochitl, Relacion de 
la Venida de los Espanoles y Principio de la Ley Evangelica (Mexico, 
1829), p. 9. 



taken place there since the expulsion of the Spaniards 
from Mexico, of which it will be necessary to give 
some account. 

The reader will remember that the cacique of that 
place, named Cacama, was deposed by Cortes, during his 
first residence in the Aztec metropolis, in consequence 
of a projected revolt against the Spaniards, and that 
the crown had been placed on the head of a younger 
brother, Cuicuitzca. The deposed prince was among 
the prisoners carried away by Cortes, and perished with 
the others, in the terrible passage of the causeway, on 
the noche triste. His brother, afraid, probably, after 
the flight of the Spaniards, of continuing with his own 
vassals, whose sympathies were altogether with the 
Aztecs, accompanied his friends in their retreat, and 
was so fortunate as to reach Tlascala in safety. 

Meanwhile, a second son of Nezahualpilli, named 
Coanaco, claimed the crown, on his elder brother's 
death, as his own rightful inheritance. As he heartily 
joined his countrymen and the Aztecs in their detesta- 
tion of the white men, his claims were sanctioned by 
the Mexican emperor. Soon after his accession, the 
new lord of Tezcuco had an opportunity of showing his 
loyalty to his imperial patron in an effectual manner. 

A body of forty-five Spaniards, ignorant of the dis- 
asters in Mexico, were transporting thither a large 
quantity of gold, at the very time their countrymen 
were on the retreat to Tlascala. As they passed through 
the Tezcucan territory, they were attacked by Coana 
co's orders, most of them massacred on the spot, and 
the rest sent for sacrifice to Mexico. The arms and 
accoutrements of these unfortunate men were hung up 



as trophies in the temples, and their skins, stripped 
from their dead bodies, were suspended over the bloody 
shrines, as the most acceptable offering to the offended 
deities. 26 

Some months after this event, the exiled prince, 
Cuicuitzca, wearied with his residence in Tlascala, and 
pining for his former royal state, made his way back 
secretly to Tezcuco, hoping, it would seem, to raise 
a party there in his favor. But, if such were his ex- 
pectations, they were sadly disappointed ; for no sooner 
had he set foot in the capital than he was betrayed to 
his brother, who, by the advice of Guatemozin, put him 
to death, as a traitor to his country. 27 Such was the 
posture of affairs in Tezcuco when Cortes, for the 
second time, approached its gates ; and well might he 
doubt, not merely the nature of his reception there, 
but whether he would be permitted to enter it at all, 
without force of arms. 

These apprehensions were dispelled the following 
morning, when, before the troops were well under 
arms, an embassy was announced from the lord of 
Tezcuco. It consisted of several nobles, some of 
whom were known to the companions of Cortes. 
They bore a golden flag in token of amity, and a 
present of no great value to Cortes. They brought 
also a message from the cacique, imploring the general 

36 See ante, p. 395. — The skins of those immolated on the sacrificial 
stone were a common offering in the Indian temples, and the mad 
priests celebrated many of their festivals by publicly dancing with 
their own persons enveloped in these disgusting spoils of their victims. 
See Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva-Espana, passim. 

1 Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 187. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 19. 


45 1 

to spare his territories, inviting him to take up his 
quarters in his capital, and promising on his arrival to 
become the vassal of the Spanish sovereign. 

Cortes dissembled the satisfaction with which he 
listened to these overtures, and sternly demanded of 
the envoys an account of the Spaniards who had been 
massacred, insisting, at the same time, on the imme- 
diate restitution of .the plunder. But the Indian no- 
bles excused themselves by throwing the whole blame 
upon the Aztec emperor, by whose orders the deed had 
been perpetrated, and who now had possession of the 
treasure. They urged Cortes not to enter the city that 
day, but to pass the night in the suburbs, that their 
master might have time to prepare suitable accommo- 
dations for him. The Spanish commander, however, 
gave no heed to this suggestion, but pushed forward 
his march, and at noon, on the thirty-first of Decem- 
ber, 1520, entered, at the head of his legions, the ven- 
erable walls of Tezcuco, "the place of rest," as not 
inaptly denominated. 28 

He was struck, as when he before visited this popu- 
lous city, with the solitude and silence which reigned 
throughout its streets. He was conducted to the palace 
of Nezahualpilli, which was assigned as his quarters. 
It was an irregular pile of low buildings, covering a 
wide extent of ground, like the royal residence occu- 
pied by the troops in Mexico. It was spacious enough 
to furnish accommodations not only for all the Span- 

23 Tezcuco, a Chichimec name, according to Ixtlilxochitl, signify- 
ing " place of detention or rest," because the various tribes from the 
North halted there on their entrance into Anahuac. Hist. Chich.. 
MS., cap. 10. 


iards, says Cortes, but for twice their number. 29 He 
gave orders, on his arrival, that all regard should be 
paid to the persons and property of the citizens, and 
forbade any Spaniard to leave his quarters, under pain 
of death. 

His commands were not effectual to suppress some 
excesses of his Indian allies, if the report of the Tez- 
cucan chronicler be correct, who states that the Tlas- 
calans burned down one of the royal palaces soon after 
their arrival. It was the depository of the national 
archives; and the conflagration, however it may have 
occurred, may well be deplored by the antiquary, who 
might have found in its hieroglyphic records some 
clue to the migrations of the mysterious races which 
first settled on the highlands of Anahuac. 30 

Alarmed at the apparent desertion of the place, as 
well as by the fact that none of its principal inhabit- 
ants came to welcome him, Cortes ordered some sol- 
diers to ascend the neighboring teocalli and survey the 
city. They soon returned with the report that the 
inhabitants were leaving it in great numbers, with their 
families and effects, some in canoes upon the lake, 
others on foot towards the mountains. The general 
now comprehended the import of the cacique's sug- 

*9 " La qual es tan grande, que aunque fueramos doblados los Es- 
paiioles, nos pudieramos aposentar bien a placer en ella." Rel. Terc, 
ap. Lorenzana, p. igi. 

3° " De tal manera que se quemaron todos los Archivos Reales de 
toda la Nueva Espana, que fue una de las mayores perdidas que tuvo 
esta tierra, porque con esto toda la memoria de sus antiguayas y otras 
cosas que eran como Escrituras y recuerdos perecieron desde este 
tiempo. La obra de las Casas era la mejor y la mas artificiosa que 
hubo en esta tierra." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91. 


gestion that the Spaniards should pass the night in the 
suburbs, — in order to secure time for evacuating the 
city. He feared that the chief himself might have 
fled. He lost no time in detaching troops to secure the 
principal avenues, where they were to turn tack the 
fugitives, and arrest the cacique, if he were among the 
number. But it was too late. Coanaco was already 
far on his way across the lake to Mexico. 

Cortes now determined to turn this event to his own 
account, by placing another ruler on the throne, who 
should be more subservient to his interests. He called 
a meeting of the few principal persons still remaining 
in the city, and, by their advice and ostensible elec- 
tion, advanced a brother of the late sovereign to the 
dignity, which they declared vacant. This prince, 
who consented to be baptized, was a willing instru- 
ment in the hands of the Spaniards. He survived but 
a few months, 31 and was succeeded by another member 
of the royal house, named Ixtlilxochitl, who, indeed, 
as general of his armies, may be said to have held the 
reins of government in his hands during his brother's 
lifetime. As this person was intimately associated 

31 The historian Ixtlilxochitl pays the following high tribute to the 
character of his royal kinsman, whose name was Tecocol. Strange 
that this name is not to be found — with the exception of Sahagun's 
work — in any contemporary record ! " Fue el primero que lo fue en 
Tezcoco, con harta pena de los Espafioles, porque fue nobilisimo y 
los quiso mucho. Fue D. Fernando Tecocoltzin muy gentil hombre, 
alto de cuerpo y muy bianco, tanto cuanto podia ser cualquier Espa- 
nol por muy bianco que fuese, y que mostraba su persona y termino 
descender, y ser del linage que era. Supo la lengua Castellana, y 
asi casi las mas noches despues de haber cenado, trataban el y Cortes 
de todo lo que se debia hacer acerca de las guerras." Ixtlilxochitl, 
Venida de los Espafioles, pp. 12, 13. 



with the Spaniards in their subsequent operations, to 
the success of which he essentially contributed, it is 
proper to give some account of his early history, which, 
in truth, is as much enveloped in the marvellous as that 
of any fabulous hero of antiquity. 32 

He was son, by a second queen, of the great Neza- 
hualpilli. Some alarming prodigies at his birth, and 
the gloomy aspect of the planets, led the astrologers 
who cast his horoscope to advise the king, his father, 
to take away the infant's life, since, if he lived to grow 
up, he was destined to unite with the enemies of his 
country and overturn its institutions and religion. But 
the old monarch replied, says the chronicler, that "the 
time had arrived when the sons of Quetzalcoatl were to 
come from the East to take possession of the land ; 
and, if the Almighty had selected his child to co- 
operate with them in the work, His will be done." 33 

3 2 The accession of Tecocol, as, indeed, his existence, passes un- 
noticed by some historians, and by others is mentioned in so equivocal 
a manner— his Indian name being omitted — that it is very doubtful 
if any other is intended than his younger brother Ixtlilxochitl. Tie 
Tezcucan chronicler bearing this last melodious name*" has alone 
given the particulars of his history. I have followed him, as, from 
his personal connections, having had access to the best sources of 
information ; though, it must be confessed, he is far too ready to take 
things on trust, to be always the best authority. 

33 " El respondio, que era por demas ir contra lo determinado por 
el Dios Criador de todas las cosas, pues no sin misterio y secreto juicio 
suyo le daba tal Hijo al tiempo y quando se acercaban las profecias 

* [This name — " which," says Mr. Tylor, "sticks in the throats of 
readers of Prescott" — signifies "vanilla-face," being compounded 
of ixtli, face, and tlilxochitl, vanilla, the latter being itself a compound 
of tlilli, black, and xockitl, flower. — Buschmann, Uber die Azteki- 
schen Ortsnamen, S. 681. — ED.] 



As the boy advanced in years, he exhibited a marvel- 
lous precocity not merely of talent, but of mischievous 
activity, which afforded an alarming prognostic for the 
future. When about twelve years old, he formed a 
little corps of followers of about his own age, or some- 
what older, with whom he practised the military 
exercises of his nation, conducting mimic fights 
and occasionally assaulting the peaceful burghers and 
throwing the whole city as well as palace into uproar 
and confusion. Some of his father's ancient counsel- 
lors, connecting this conduct with the predictions at 
his birth, saw in it such alarming symptoms that they 
repeated the advice of the astrologers to take away the 
prince's life, if the monarch would not see his kingdom 
one day given up to anarchy. This unpleasant advice 
was reported to the juvenile offender, who was so much 
exasperated by it that he put himself at the head of a 
party of his young desperadoes, and, entering the houses 
of the offending counsellors, dragged them forth and 
administered to them the garrote, — the mode in which 
capital punishment was inflicted in Tezcuco. 

He was seized and brought before his father. When 
questioned as to his extraordinary conduct, he coolly 
replied "that he had done no more than he had a 
right to do. The guilty ministers had deserved their 
fate, by endeavoring to alienate his father's affections 
from him, for no other reason than his too great fond- 
ness for the profession of arms, — the most honorable 
profession in the state, and the one most worthy of a 

de sus Antepasados, que haviase venir nuevas Gentes a poseer la 
Tierra, como eran los Hijos de Quetzalcoatl que aguardaban su 
venida de la parte oriental." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 69. 



prince. If they had suffered death, it was no more 
than they had intended for him." The wise Neza- 
hualpilli, says the chronicler, found much force in 
these reasons ; and, as he saw nothing low and sordid 
in the action, but rather the ebullition of a daring 
spirit, which in after-life might lead to great things, he 
contented himself with bestowing a grave admonition 
on the juvenile culprit. 34 Whether this admonition 
had any salutary effect on his subsequent demeanor, we 
are not informed. It is said, however, that as he grew 
older he took an active part in the wars of his country, 
and, when no more than seventeen, had won for him- 
self the insignia of a valiant and victorious captain. 35 

On his father's death, he disputed the succession with 
his elder brother, Cacama. The country was menaced 
with a civil war, when the affair was compromised by 
his brother's ceding to him that portion of his terri- 
tories which lay among the mountains. On the arrival 
of the Spaniards, the young chieftain — for he was 
scarcely twenty years of age — made, as we have seen, 
many friendly demonstrations towards them, induced, 

34 " Con que el Rey no supo con que ocacion poderle castigar, por- 
que lo parecieron sus razones tan vivas y fundadas que su parte no 
habia hecho cosa indebida ni vileza para poder ser castigado, mas tan 
solo una ferocidad de animo ; pronostico de lo mucho que habia de 
venir i. saber por las Armas, y asi el Rey dijo, que se fuese d la mano." 
Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 69. 

35 Ibid., ubi supra. — Among other anecdotes recorded of the young 
prince's early development is one of his having, when only three years 
old, pitched his nurse into a well, as she was drawing water, to punish 
her for certain improprieties of conduct of which he had been witness. 
But I spare the reader the recital of these astonishing proofs of pre- 
cocity, as it is very probable his appetite for the marvellous may not 
keep pace with that of the chronicler of Tezcuco. 



no doubt, by his hatred of Montezuma, who had sup- 
ported the pretensions of Cacama. 36 It was not, how- 
ever, till his advancement to the lordship of Tezcuco 
that he showed the full extent of his good will. From 
that hour he became the fast friend of the Christians, 
supporting them with his personal authority and the 
whole strength of his military array and resources, 
which, although much shorn of their ancient splendor 
since the days of his father, were still considerable, and 
made him a most valuable ally. His important services 
have been gratefully commemorated by the Castilian 
historians ; and history should certainly not defraud 
him of his just meed of glory, — the melancholy glory 
of having contributed more than any other chieftain 
of Anahuac to rivet the chains of the white man round 
the necks of his countrymen. 

3 s Ante, vol. i. p. 306. 

The two pillars on which the story of the Conquest mainly rests are 
the Chronicles of Gomara and of Bernal Diaz, two individuals having 
as little resemblance to each other as the courtly and cultivated church- 
man has to the unlettered soldier. 

The first of these, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, was a native of 
Seville. On the return of Cortes to Spain after the Conquest, Gomara 
became his chaplain, and on his patron's death continued in the ser- 
vice of his son, the second Marquis of the Valley. It was then that 
he wrote his Chronicle ; and the circumstances under which it was 
produced might lead one to conjecture that the narrative would not 
be conducted on the strict principles of historic impartiality. Nor 
would such a conjecture be without foundation. The history of the 
Conquest is necessarily that of the great man who achieved it. But 
Gomara has thrown his hero's character into so bold relief that it has 
entirely overshadowed that of his brave companions in arms ; and, 
while he has tenderly drawn the veil over the infirmities of his favorite, 
he is ever studious to display his exploits in the full blaze of panegyric. 
Vol. II. — u 39 

458 GO MARA. 

His situation may in some degree excuse his partiality. But it did 
not vindicate him in the eyes of the honest Las Casas, who seldom 
concludes a chapter of his own narrative of the Conquest without 
administering a wholesome castigation to Gomara. He even goes so 
far as to tax the chaplain with " downright falsehood," assuring us 
" that he had neither eyes nor ears but for what his patron chose to 
dictate to him." That this is not literally true is evident from the fact 
that the narrative was not written till several years after the death of 
Cortes. Indeed, Gomara derived his information from the highest 
sources; not merely from his patron's family, but also from the most 
distinguished actors in the great drama, with whom his position in 
society placed him in intimate communication. 

The materials thus obtained he arranged with a symmetry little 
understood by the chroniclers of the time. Instead of their rambling 
incoherencies, his style displays an elegant brevity ; it is as clear as 
it is concise. If the facts are somewhat too thickly crowded on the 
reader, and occupy the mind too busily for reflection, they at least all 
tend to a determinate point, and the story, instead of dragging its slow 
length along till our patience and interest are exhausted, steadily main- 
tains its onward march. In short, the execution of the work is not 
only superior to that of most contemporary narratives, but, to a certain 
extent, may aspire to the rank of a classical composition. 

Owing to these circumstances, Gomara's History soon obtained 
general circulation and celebrity ; and, while many a letter of Cortes, 
and the more elaborate compositions of Oviedo and Las Casas, were 
suffered to slumber in manuscript, Gomara's writings were printed and 
reprinted in his own day, and translated into various languages of 
Europe. The first edition of the Crbnica de la Nueva-Espaha appeared 
at Medina, in 1553 ; it was republished at Antwerp the following year. 
It has since been incorporated in Barcia's collection, and lastly, in 
1826, made its appearance on this side of the water from the Mexican 
press. The circumstances attending this last edition are curious. The 
Mexican government appropriated a small sum to defray the expense 
of translating what was supposed to be an original chronicle of Chi- 
malpain, an Indian writer who lived at the close of the sixteenth 
century. The care of the translation was committed to the laborious 
Bustamante. But this scholar had not proceeded far in his labor 
when he ascertained that the supposed original was itself an Aztec 
translation of Gomara's Chronicle. He persevered, however, in his 
editorial labors, until he had given to the public an American edition 



of Gomara. It is a fact more remarkable that the editor in his differ- 
ent compilations constantly refers to this same work as the Chronicle 
of Chimalpain. 

The other authority to which I have adverted is Bernal Diaz del 
Castillo, a native of Medina del Campo in Old Castile. He was born 
of a poor and humble family, and in 1514 came over to seek his for- 
tunes in the New World. He embarked as a common soldier under 
Cordova in the first expedition to Yucatan. He accompanied Grijalva 
in the following year to the same quarter, and finally enlisted under 
the banner of Cortes. He followed this victorious chief in his first 
march up the great plateau ; descended with him to make the assault 
on Narvaez ; shared the disasters of the noc/ie triste ; and was present 
at the siege and surrender of the capital. In short, there was scarcely 
an event or an action of importance in the whole war in which he did 
not bear a part. He was engaged in a hundred and nineteen differ- 
ent battles and rencontres, in several of which he was wounded, and 
in more than one narrowly escaped falling into the enemy's hands. 
In all these Bernal Diaz displayed the old Castilian valor, and a 
loyalty which made him proof against the mutinous spirit that too 
often disturbed the harmony of the camp. On every occasion he was 
found true to his commander and to the cause in which he was em- 
barked. And his fidelity is attested not only by his own report, but 
by the emphatic commendations of his general ; who selected him on 
this account for offices of trust and responsibility, which furnished the 
future chronicler with access to the best means of information in re- 
spect to the Conquest. 

On the settlement of the country, Bernal Diaz received his share 
of the repartimientos of land and laborers. But the arrangement was 
not to his satisfaction ; and he loudly murmurs at the selfishness of 
his commander, too much engrossed by the care for his own emolu- 
ments to think of his followers. The division of spoil is usually an 
unthankful office. Diaz had been too long used to a life of adventure 
to be content with one of torpid security. He took part in several 
expeditions conducted by the captains of Cortes, and he accompanied 
that chief in his terrible passage through the forests of Honduras. 
At length, in 1568, we find the veteran established as regidor of the 
city of Guatemala, peacefully employed in recounting the valorous 
achievements of his youth. It was then nearly half a century after 
the Conquest. He had survived his general and nearly all his ancient 
companions in arms. Five only remained of that gallant band who 


had accompanied Cortes on his expedition from Cuba ; and those five, 
to borrow the words of the old chronicler, were " poor, aged, and 
infirm, with children and grandchildren looking to them for support, 
but with scarcely the means of affording it, — ending their days, as 
they had begun them, in toil and trouble." Such was the fate of the 
Conquerors of golden Mexico. 

The motives which induced Bernal Diaz to take up his pen at so 
late a period of life were to vindicate for himself and his comrades that 
share of renown in the Conquest which fairly belonged to them. Of 
this they had been deprived, as he conceived, by the exaggerated repu- 
tation of their general ; owing, no doubt, in part, to the influence of 
Gomara's writings. It was not, however, till he had advanced beyond 
the threshold of his own work that Diaz met with that of the chaplain. 
The contrast presented by his own homely diction to the clear and 
polished style of his predecessor filled him with so much disgust that 
he threw down his pen in despair. But, when he had read further, 
and saw the gross inaccuracies and what he deemed disregard of truth 
in his rival, he resumed his labors, determined to exhibit to the world 
a narrative which should at least have the merit of fidelity. Such was 
the origin of the Historia verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva- 

The chronicler may be allowed to have succeeded in his object. In 
reading his pages, we feel that, whatever are the errors into which he 
has fallen, from oblivion of ancient transactions, or from unconscious 
vanity, — of which he had full measure, — or from credulity, or any 
other cause, there is nowhere a wilful perversion of truth. Had he at- 
tempted it, indeed, his very simplicity would have betrayed him. Even 
in relation to Cortes, while he endeavors to adjust the true balance 
between his pretensions and those of his followers, and while he freely 
exposes his cunning or cupidity, and sometimes his cruelty, he does 
ample justice to his great and heroic qualities. With all his defects, it 
is clear that he considers his own chief as superior to any other of an- 
cient or modern times. In the heat of remonstrance, he is ever ready 
to testify his loyalty and personal attachment. When calumnies assail 
his commander, or he experiences unmerited slight or indignity, the 
loyal chronicler is prompt to step forward and shield him. In short, it 
is evident that, however much he may at times censure Cortes, he will 
allow no one else to do it. 

Bernal Diaz, the untutored child of nature, is a most true and literal 
copyist of nature. He transfers the scenes of real life by a sort of 


daguerreotype process, if I may so say, to his pages. He is among 
chroniclers what De Foe is among novelists. He introduces us into 
the heart of the camp, we huddle round the bivouac with the soldiers, 
loiter with them on their wearisome marches, listen to their stories, 
their murmurs of discontent, their plans of conquest, their hopes, their 
triumphs, their disappointments. All the picturesque scenes and 
romantic incidents of the campaign are reflected in his page as in a 
mirror. The lapse of fifty years has had no power over the spirit of 
the veteran. The fire of youth glows in every line of his rude history ; 
and, as he calls up the scenes of the past, the remembrance of the 
brave companions who are gone gives, it may be, a warmer coloring 
to the picture than if it had been made at an earlier period. Time, 
and reflection, and the apprehensions for the future, which might steal 
over the evening of life, have no power over the settled opinions of 
his earlier days. He has no misgivings as to the right of conquest, or 
as to the justice of the severities inflicted on the natives. He is still 
the soldier of the Cross ; and those who fell by his side in the fight 
were martyrs for the faith. "Where are now my companions?" he 
asks; "they have fallen in battle or been devoured by the cannibal, 
or been thrown to fatten the wild beasts in their cages ! they whose 
remains should rather have been gathered under monuments emblaz- 
oned with their achievements, which deserve to be commemorated in 
letters of gold ; for they died in the service of God and of his Majesty, 
and to give light to those who sat in darkness, — and also to acquire 
that wealth which most men covet." The last motive — thus tardily and 
incidentally expressed — may be thought by some to furnish a better 
key than either of the preceding to the conduct of the Conquerors. It 
is, at all events, a specimen of that naivete which gives an irresistible 
charm to the old chronicler, and which, in spite of himself, unlocks his 
bosom, as it were, and lays it open to the eye of the reader. 

It may seem extraordinary that, after so long an interval, the inci- 
dents of his campaigns should have been so freshly remembered. But 
we must consider that they were of the most strange and romantic 
character, well fitted to make an impression on a young and susceptible 
imagination. They had probably been rehearsed by the veteran again 
and again to his family and friends, until every passage of the war was 
as familiar to his mind as the " tale of Troy" to the Greek rhapsodist, 
or the interminable adventures of Sir Lancelot or Sir Gawain to the 
Norman minstrel. The throwing of his narrative into the form of 
chronicle was but repeating it once more. 



The literary merits of the work are of a very humble order ; as 
might be expected from the condition of the writer. He has not even 
the art to conceal his own vulgar vanity, which breaks out with a truly 
comic ostentation in every page of the narrative. And yet we should 
have charity for this, when we find that it is attended with no disposi- 
tion to depreciate the merits of others, and that its display may be 
referred in part to the singular simplicity of the man. He honestly 
confesses his infirmity, though, indeed, to excuse it. " When my 
chronicle was finished," he says, " I submitted it to two licentiates, who 
were desirous of reading the story, and for whom I felt all the respect 
which an ignorant man naturally feels for a scholar. I besought them, 
at the same time, to make no change or correction in the manuscript, 
as all there was set down in good faith. When they had read the 
work, they much commended me for my wonderful memory. The 
language, they said, was good old Castilian, without any of the 
flourishes and finicalities so much affected by our fine writers. But 
they remarked that it would have been as well if I had not praised 
myself and my comrades so liberally, but had left that to others. To 
this I answered that it was common for neighbors and kindred to 
speak kindly of one another ; and, if we did not speak well of our- 
selves, who would ? Who else witnessed our exploits and our battles, 
■ — unless, indeed, the clouds in the sky, and the birds that were flying 
over our heads?" 

Notwithstanding the liberal encomiums passed by the licentiates on 
our author's style, it is of a very homely texture, abounding in collo- 
quial barbarisms, and seasoned occasionally by the piquant sallies of 
the camp. It has the merit, however, of clearly conveying the writer's 
thoughts, and is well suited to their simple character. His narrative 
is put together with even less skill than is usual among his craft, and 
abounds in digressions and repetitions, such as vulgar gossips are apt 
to use in telling their stories. But it is superfluous to criticise a work 
by the rules of art which was written manifestly in total ignorance of 
those rules, and which, however we may criticise it, will be read and 
re-read by the scholar and the schoolboy, while the compositions of 
more classic chroniclers sleep undisturbed on their shelves. 

In what, then, lies the charm of the work? In that spirit of truth 
which pervades it; which shows us situations as they were, and sen- 
timents as they really existed in the heart of the writer. It is this 
which imparts a living interest to his story, and which is more 
frequently found in the productions of the untutored penman solely 


intent upon facts, than in those of the ripe and fastidious scholar 
occupied with the mode of expressing them. 

It was by a mere chance that this inimitable chronicle was rescued 
from the oblivion into which so many works of higher pretensions 
have fallen in the Peninsula. For more than sixty years after its com- 
position the manuscript lay concealed in the obscurity of a private 
library, when it was put into the hands of Father Alonso Remon, 
Chronicler-General of the Order of Mercy. He had the sagacity to 
discover, under its rude exterior, its high value in illustrating the his- 
tory of the Conquest. He obtained a license for the publication of 
the work, and under his auspices it appeared at Madrid in 1632, — the 
edition used in the preparation of these volumes.